The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 140.19 points to 12,552.92, while the Canadian dollar surged 0.92 of a cent to 96.86 cents US.
The commodities-heavy TSX was boosted by figures from China that showed exports and imports both increased in July, beating expectations and easing concerns over a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy. Exports were up 5.1 per cent from a year earlier, while imports jumped 10.9 per cent.
"It's a combination of things. There's some positive data out of China today that is likely supporting the commodities space, both on the materials and energy side," said Gareth Watson, vice-president of investment management and research at Richardson GMP Ltd.
"Overall, the earnings are definitely helping, but there is definitely a macro story to it as well."
The positive data also helped push December gold bullion ahead $24.60 to US$1,309.90 an ounce, while copper climbed nine cents to $3.27. The September crude oil contract moved down 97 cents to US$103.40 a barrel.
The exchange was helped by strong gains in the metals and mining sector, which rose by 7.36 per cent, as shares in Turquoise Hill Resources (TSX:TRQ) climbed more than 12 per cent to $5.10 after it announced an $600-million loan from Rio Tinto PLC that will help it fund its $6.2 billion Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia. Shares in Thompson Creek Metals Co. (TSX:TCM) also gained 11.74 per cent to $3.30 after it announced the name of a new chief executive.
Nearly all sectors were up on the TSX, except for energy, telecom and utilities.
U.S. indexes also registered some gains after being mixed for most of the day. The Dow Jones industrials was ahead 27.65 points to 15,498.32, the Nasdaq climbed 15.12 points to 3,669.12, while the S&P 500 went up 6.57 points to 1,697.48.
Watson said the fluctuations in the U.S. markets shouldn't worry investors too much, considering the indexes are faring well overall year-to-date.
"Sometimes, in terms of that momentum we've been getting based off of economic data or earnings reports, it's just tough sometimes to keep that momentum going," he said.
"We've had a really good stretch here since the beginning of July up until now. I think the market is just pacing itself, more than anything else."
In economic news, the latest figures showed that the number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits over the past month has fallen to its lowest level in almost six years, signalling fewer layoffs and a strengthening U.S. economy.
The U.S. Labor Department says the four-week average dropped 6,250 to 335,500 — the lowest level since November 2007, the month before the Great Recession began.
For the past few months, concerns have been raised about when the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin pulling back on its monetary stimulus by tapering its current $85-billion bond-buying program. Signs that it may happen sooner rather than later have prompted markets to get nervous any time the Fed gives away clues on the timing of this pullback.
The markets had a lot to digest Thursday, as several major Canadian corporations from a variety of sectors came in with their latest earnings.
Shares in retailer Canadian Tire Corp. (TSX:CTC.A) closed at a record for the year, up 7.11 per cent or $5.94 at $89.45 after significantly beating analyst estimates. It said it earned $154.9 million in its second quarter and said it was looking for a financial partner for its credit card business. Its record share price for the last 52 weeks was $87.45. The retailer provided few details on its plan, but said it would reduce the financing risk of funding its credit card assets.
Movie exhibitor Cineplex Inc. (TSX:CGX) saw its stock closed at a record, up $2.48 or 6.61 per cent, at $40 after it reported a profit of $28.5 million in the second quarter on $301.6 million of revenue overall. The results were up from $21 million or 34 cents per share on $263.7 million in revenue a year ago. Its last record share price was $38.80.
Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) reported core earnings, which strip out a number of one-time charges, of $609 million or 31 cents per share, up from $599 million or 30 cents per share a year ago. Analysts had been looking 34 cents per share of core earnings, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters. Its shares finished down 25 cents, or 1.39 per cent, at $17.79.
There was little reaction to Quebecor's (TSX:QBR.B) shares after the CRTC rejected Sun News Network's request to be carried on basic cable, saying that the upstart network does not meet the criteria for a mandatory distribution order.
The media giant, which owns the channel, saw its stock gain 25 cents or 0.53 per cent to $47.10 at the close. Quebecor also reported a $45.1-million net loss attributable to shareholders and $52.9 million of adjusted income from continuing operations for its second quarter. The adjusted earnings equal 85 cents per basic share, up from 72 cents per share or $46.1 million in the second quarter of 2012.
Telecommunications giants BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE), Telus (TSX:T) and potash producer Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) were also among the other major corporations that reporting earnings.