U.S. stocks climbed on Thursday, clearing initial losses, after better-than-expected earnings from companies including Goodyear Tire & Rubber helped deflect weaker-than-anticipated economic data.
"The earnings season has been a little better than people thought, although analysts continue to reduce their estimates for the next quarter," said Bob Baur, chief global economist at Principal Global Investors.
Ahead of the open, stock futures intensified their losses after the data, with sentiment already lower after a disappointing forecast from Cisco Systems.The network gear maker projected a drop of 6 to 8 percent in revenue in the current quarter.
The Labor Department reported applications for unemployment benefits climbed by 8,000 to 339,000, higher than the 300,000 projected by economists. Separately, the Commerce Department reported retail sales fell 0.4 percent last month from December, versus expectations they would be flat.
"The retail sales number was disappointing, but I think we have to remember how poor the weather was in January, and continues to be in February, so we're taking the recent spate of less-than-wonderful data with a grain of salt. We may see a bounce back in the second quarter, when things get back to more normal," said Baur.
After a 100-point drop, the Dow Jones Industrial Average recovered to end at 16,027.59, up 63.65 points, or 0.4 percent.
The S&P 500 gained 10.57 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,829.83.
Up for a sixth session, the Nasdaq climbed 39.38 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,240.67.
Comcast on Thursday said it reached an agreement to acquire Time Warner Cable in an all-stock transaction worth $158.82 a share, with the deal between the country's two biggest cable companies valued at $45.2 billion at Wednesday's close.
(Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com)
For every stock falling, nearly three rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume approached 639 million shares. Composite volume neared 3.3 billion.
The dollar fell against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners and the 10-year Treasury yield used in figuring mortgage rates and other consumer loans declined by 6 basis points to 2.735 percent.
Crude-oil futures for March delivery fell 2 cents to $100.35 a barrel; gold futures for April delivery gained $5.10, or 0.4 percent, to $1,300.10 an ounce, settling above $1,300.00 for the first time since Nov. 7.
On Wednesday, stocks were mixed, with the S&P 500 little changed after its largest four-session jump in more than a year.
—By CNBC's Kate Gibson
Coming Up This Week:
Friday: Earnings: Campbell Soup, Petrobras, Brookfield Asset Management, Interpublic, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, VF Corp, Scripps Networks TRW Automotive. Import prices at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Industrial production at 9:15 a.m. Eastern. Consumer sentiment at 9:55 a.m. Eastern.
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