U.S. stocks rallied amid a set of positive news on the global economy, including encouraging data from Europe. The sentiment was likely boosted by rumors that China's gross domestic product data due on Friday will come in stronger than forecast. The Federal Reserve officials indicated that interest rates are likely to stay low through 2014.
S&P 500 Index gained 1.38 percent to finish at 1,387.57. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 1.41 percent to end at 12,986.58. The Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 3,055.55, up 1.30 percent.
On the economic front, a data from the Labor Department showed that the number of Americans who continued to receive jobless benefits unexpectedly climbed last week to their highest level since January. Jobless claims rose 13,000 to 380,000 from a revised 367,000, while economists projected claims to drop to 355,000.
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In other economic data, the trade gap for February shrank to $46.0 billion from $52.5 billion in January, largest decrease in nearly 3 years. The producer price index for March was unchanged after a 0.4 percent rise in February, while economists expected a 0.3 percent advance. Core prices increased 0.3 percent.
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In corporate news, Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) posted EPS of $10.08 a share on revenue of $8.14 billion for the first quarter. Analysts' expected the search engine giant to earn $9.65 for the quarter on revenue of $8.15 billion. Google's cost per click metric, on average, fell 12 percent. The company also announced plans for an effective stock split. Shares edged 0.84 percent higher in extended trading.
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J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. (Nasdaq:JBHT) posted better-than-expected first quarter results. EPS were 57 cents on revenue of $1.17 billion topped consensus estimate of 52 cents and $1.15 billion. The stock closed at $55.84 on Thursday.
Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE:HPQ) rallied 7.18 percent to close at $25.09. Reports from Gartner Inc. and IDC showed that HPQ still lead the personal computer market in terms of volume.
Tractor Supply Co. (Nasdaq:TSCO) added 6.12 percent to finish at $97.95 after the operator of retail farm and ranch stores raised its earnings view for the full year, citing better-than-forecast sales in the first quarter spurred by strong average ticket and continued increases in transaction count.