Economic bellwether UPS rose after the package delivery company topped earnings forecasts, thanks to strong demand in domestic ground shipments.
Amazon spiked higher after the online retail powerhouse reported revenue that blew past expectations on Thursday afternoon. Dow component Microsoft also rallied after the software giant posted quarterly earnings and revenue that exceeded Wall Street expectations.
The Chinese central bank tightened liquidity by withdrawing cash from the system for the third time in two weeks on Thursday. This increased concerns of a repeat of June's credit crunch, following last week's spike in repo rates, a key gauge of liquidity.
(Read more: China dumping Treasurys still a real threat: Roach)
Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar sold off against a basket of currencies . The greenback hit a fresh two-year low against the euro, two-week low against the yen and a two-month low against Indonesia's rupiah.
In Europe, auto stocks led declines after last session's stellar gains. Renault and Volvo fell respectively 4 percent and 6 percent after each reported disappointing third quarter sales. Weak earnings from Electrolux and Spanish bank BBVA also weighed, along with a ratings downgrade for U.K. retailer Debenhams.
Back in Europe, the issue of U.S. surveillance looks set to dominate a summit of the European Union (EU) in Brussels on Friday.
Germany, France and other EU member states announced on Thursday that they were seeking a "mutual understanding" with the U.S. on cooperation between their intelligence agencies. Reuters also reported that Germany's foreign minister had warned that the countries' historic friendship was at risk unless Washington lays "all cards on the table".
(Read more: EU slams 'out of control' US as spying row deepens)
Meanwhile, a first reading of U.K. third quarter GDP met expectations, with a 0.8 percent gain on the quarter before, the strongest growth seen since 2010. However, the widely watched Ifo business climate data for Germany showed an unexpected fall for October.