Stocks closed higher Thursday as investors appeared to shrug off persistent global concerns and focus on strong earnings and growth prospects in the U.S.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 84.54 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 12,170.56, a day after the blue-chip index gained 67 points amid light volume. The Dow has risen 4.8 percent over the last six sessions.
Among Dow components, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot , and Pfizer led the gainers, while Bank of America and Cisco fell.
The S&P 500 rose 12.12 points, or 0.9 percent, to close at 1,309.66. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 38.12 points, or 1.4 percent, to close at 2,736.42. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, fell more than 6 percent to 18.
Most key S&P sectors gained, led by technology,consumer discretionary, and health care.
The stock market has proven to be extremely resilient lately, rising persistently on light volume once investors shook off the shock of multiple disasters in Japan on March 11. Volume was light again Thursday, with only 870 million shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange floor, and 3.8 billion changing hands on the consolidated tape of the NYSE.
After dropping 6.4 percent through March 16 on the news in Japan, the S&P 500 had climbed back more than 4 percent as of Wednesday's close. Today, the broad market index has broken through its 50-day moving average to rise above 1,309.
Energy stocks have largely pushed the index higher as oil prices have surged to record levels and the nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant have raised concerns about the future of nuclear energy. Anadarko Petroleum is up 10.6 percent since March 16, while coal producer Massey has gained 10.9 percent.
The Federal Reserve said Thursday that it would begin holding quarterly press conferencesafter the Federal Open Market Committee's meeting minutes are released. The first announced session, after the policy-making committee meets on April 27, will be the first regularly scheduled briefing by a Fed chairman in the institution's history.
Unrest in the Middle East and Libya continued to support the price of oil, although prices slipped later in the session amid profit taking, and some concerns with weak durable goods orders in the U.S.
U.S. light sweet crude, fell to $105.60 a barrel, while London Brent crude fell slightly to just under $116 a barrel.
Gold prices retreated to close at $1,435 an ounce after hitting a record high of $1,447.40 earlier in the session. Silver also retreated slightly after hitting a 31-year high of $38.13.