Also on the economic front, the U.S. trade deficit expanded almost 17 percent to $44.45 billion in January, from a revised $38.14 billion in the prior month, according to the Commerce Department.
Meanwhile, productivity slid at a 1.9 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the fastest pace in nearly four years, according to the Labor Department. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a decline of 1.6 percent. Productivity increased at a 3.1 percent rate in the third quarter.
Stocks ended higher on Wednesday, with the Dow extending its gains to post a record high for the second-straight day.
European shares pared their early gains after the European Central Bank kept its interest rates unchanged at a record low of 0.75 percent, as expected. And the Bank of England kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0.5 percent and held the size of its asset purchase program at 375 billion pounds.
"A gradual recovery should commence in the second part (of 2013)," said ECB President Mario Draghi at a news conference following the rate decision. "Inflation expectations for the euro area remain firmly anchored, in line with our aim of maintaining inflation rates below but close to 2 percent over the medium term. Overall, this will allow our monetary policy stance to remain accommodative."
The Nikkei came off a four-and-a-half year high but held onto most of its gains amid after the Bank of Japan opted to leave its monetary policy unchanged. Investors widely expected the move, and are looking ahead to April's meeting for bold stimulus under Haruhiko Kuroda's new leadership.
Among earnings, Smithfield Foods gained after the pork producer posted quarterly results that topped Wall Street expectations, thanks to higher sales of its packaged products.
H&R Block and Pandora are among notable companies slated to report earnings after the closing bell.
In stock news, Reuters reported that U.S. safety regulators are poised to allow Boeing to begin flight tests of the 787 Dreamliner, a critical step towards returning the grounded aircraft to service.
Also on the economic front, the Federal Reserve will release its consumer credit report for January at 3 pm ET. Economists polled by Reuters forecast a $14.3 billion gain, after a $14.6 billion increase in August.