(By Balachander) U.S. stocks closed sharply higher following comments by the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi regarding the euro. Investors also weighed a slew of corporate earnings reports and some upbeat domestic economic readings.
S&P 500 Index jumped 1.65 percent to close at 1,360.01. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.67 percent to end at 12,887.24. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 1.37 percent to finish at 2,893.25.
On the US economic front, the number of Americans who continued to receive jobless benefits dropped sharply for the week ended July 21, a government data showed. Jobless claims fell 35,000 to 353,000 last week from the previous week's revised figure of 388,000, while economists projected 380,000 applications.
The Commerce Department reported that durable goods orders for June rose 1.6 percent for the second straight month, while economists expected a 0.4 percent increase. Excluding transportation, orders fell 1.1 percent after a 0.8 percent rise in May and expectations were for a 0.1 percent gain.
A report from the National Association of Realtors showed that pending home sales unexpectedly declined 1.4 percent in June following a 5.9 percent rise in the prior month, while economists expected a 0.2 percent gain.
At an investor conference in London, Draghi said the central bank could do whatever is needed to protect the beleaguered euro.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: S, ZNGA, AMZN, PCS, WDC, V, WFM, PHM, QSII, STRA
In corporate news, Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE:S) surged 20.18 percent after the mobile service provider posted quarterly revenue that topped market expectations. The company, however, posted a wider-than-expected quarterly loss as an increase in operating expenses offset revenue growth.
Visa Inc. (NYSE:V) added 3.74 percent after the payments network reported stronger-than-forecast quarterly earnings, spurred by double-digit revenue growth from data processing, service and international transactions. The company also announced a new $1 billion class A share buyback plan.
Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ:ZNGA) plunged 37.48 percent after the maker of "FarmVille" and other Facebook games posted a quarterly loss and reduced its earnings guidance for the full year. Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) fell 8.50 percent, following Zynga's report and ahead of its quarterly report.
MetroPCS Communications Inc. (NYSE:PCS) spiked 36.78 percent after the Texas-based wireless carrier posted second-quarter earnings that breezed past Wall Street estimates.
Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ:WDC) gained 20.94 percent after the data storage company posted a jump in quarterly earnings and revenue, that breezed past Wall Street projections as margins improved.
Whole Foods Market Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) advanced 11.32 percent after the grocery chain raised its outlook for the full year following a jump in quarterly earnings.
PulteGroup Inc. (NYSE:PHM) jumped 18.36 percent after the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based homebuilder swung to a quarterly profit, driven by gains in revenue and margins.
Quality Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:QSII) lost 32.50 percent after the developer of healthcare information systems posted first-quarter earnings that trailed market expectations.
Strayer Education Inc. (NASDAQ:STRA) tumbled 12.41 percent after the provider of post-secondary education services cut its third-quarter view as lower enrollment dragged second-quarter results.
Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ:SBUX), Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) are due to report their quarterly results after the markets close.
European markets ended sharply higher, with Germany's DAX adding 2.75 percent to close at 6,582.96. France's CAC40 jumped 4.07 percent to finish at 3,207.12. U.K.'s FTSE 100 gained 1.36 percent to end at 5,573.16.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index dropped 0.47 percent to finish at 2,126.00. Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.92 percent to end at 8,443.10. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index inched up 0.08 percent to end at 18,892.79. India's BSE Sensex finished at 16,639.82, down 1.22 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan:
Crude oil futures rose 0.65 percent to $89.55 per barrel and natural gas futures gained 1.07 percent to $3.103 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures advanced 0.46 percent to $1,620.1 per ounce and silver futures inched up 0.03 percent to $27.475 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro rose 1.04 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.2285. The British pound jumped 1.24 percent against the greenback to 1.5691, while the dollar added 0.05 percent against the Japanese yen to 78.2100.