Stocks ended in positive territory Thursday, with the S&P 500 finishing higher for a fourth-straight session, after some encouraging comments by ECB President Mario Draghi and as investors looked ahead to the monthly government jobs report.
All three major indexes are on pace to post their first positive week in three.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 80.75 points, or 0.60 percent, to finish at 13,575.36, led by BofA and Alcoa .
The S&P 500 climbed 10.41 points, or 0.72 percent, to close at 1,461.40. The Nasdaq gained 14.23 points, or 0.45 percent, to end at 3,149.46.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, closed below 15.
All key S&P sectors finished higher, led by financials and materials.
Investors will be looking ahead to the government's monthly jobs report due Friday. The nonfarm payroll data is expected to show that employers added 113,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate is seen rising to 8.2 percent from August's 8.1 percent, according to a Reuters poll. (Read More: Jobs Report May Mean More to Presidential Race Than Markets)
The latest minutes of the Federal Reserve's meeting showed that all members but oneagreed on QE3. Last month, the central bank launched a third round of bond-purchasing program, announcing an open-ended plan that kicks off with $40 billion per month of new mortgage debt purchases.
Earlier, ECB President Mario Draghi said the ECB's bond buying programhad eased market tensions, adding that the central bank is ready to buy the bonds of euro zone member countries that ask for it, leaving the door open to a widely expected Spanish bailout.
In addition, the ECB kept its main interest rate on holdat 0.75 percent.
“We got a little help from Europe again—it’s still Europe driving the bus,” said Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS Financial Services. “Draghi’s comments also seemed to have help out a bit and we punched through some small resistance levels—we have since the highs of the day stopped short of the next resistance level at 1464-1466 on the S&P.”
Oil prices surged nearly 4 percentamid ongoing tensions between Turkey and Syria, a weaker dollar and refinery fires.
On the economic front, factory orders posted the largest decline since January 2009, but the drop was not as large as expected, according to the Commerce Department.
Weekly jobless claims rose less than expected last week, to a seasonally adjusted 367,000, according to the Labor Department. Meanwhile, planned layoffs in September jumped, after hitting a 20-month low in August, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
“In the absence of bad news, we’ll drift higher and that’s what’s been going on,” said Brian Battle, vice president of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners. “The economic number that matters the most is the unemployment number.”
Among techs, Hewlett-Packardrecovered from earlier losses following a 13-percent plunge in the previous session after the Dow component cut earnings guidance for 2013. Still, the stock is down nearly 40 percent year to date. At least 11 brokerages cut their price target on the firm.
H-P CEO Meg Whitman told CNBC that her company is in the early stages of a turnaround planthat will take four to five years.
"I believe this is all very fixable," Whitman told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." "It's going to take time."
Facebook eked out a gain after the social-networking giant said it reached 1 billion active monthly usersin September, and is up by 45 million users since June.
Google closed at a record high of $768.05 a share.
Sprint declined after Baird downgraded the wireless communications company to "underperform" from "neutral."
—By CNBC’s JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
FRIDAY: Non-farm payrolls, consumer credit
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