Stocks closed higher after a staging a late rally triggered partly by positive comments from the economist known as "Doctor Doom."
After drifting for most of the session, the market began climbing when Reuters reported that Nouriel Roubini, a longtime pessimist, said the recession could be over by the end of the year. (Click here for story)
A push by Intel, which this week unveiled strong earnings and an optimistic forecast, also created some momentum. Computer hardware leader Dell helped drive the rally as well.
Bank stocks also moved off their lows, with the SPDR Financial ETF turning slightly positive after being down as much as 1.5 percent earlier.
International Business Machine was near the top of the Dow 30 chart as the company prepared to post earnings after the bell, joined by Google .
Volatility continues to get sapped from the market.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange's Volatility Index that measures expected changes in the S&P 500 fell below 25, while the Oil VIX dropped below 46.
Oil, which has been a fairly accurate proxy for stock market movement, reversed its earlier losses as US light, sweet crude nudged above $62 a barrel as equities posted gains.
Another reliable proxy, the Dow Transportation Index, was up close to 2 percent.
Investors weighed earnings against jobless claims data that showed a bigger-than-expected decreasethat was mitigated by auto layoffs that were much less than typical for this time of year.
On the earnings front, JPMorgan Chase reported second-quarter earnings of $2.7 billion, or 28 cents per shareon revenue of $28 billion. The stock had been approached positive ground into the final two hours of trading but was still negative.
Also in financials, CIT Group says talks with the government about possible aid for the troubled commercial lender have ended, and CNBC reported a Chapter 11 filing is likely by Friday.
Shipping companies did well after FedEx said it was taking cost-cutting measures to head off an expected weak level of demand for the remainder of the year. The Dow Jones US Delivery Services Index rose 1.5 percent.
Metals and mining along with coal stocks also were among the market's strongest performers while hotels were the big losers percentage-wise as the group gave back some gains from earlier in the week.
In deal news, Mosaic shares leaped more than 10 percent on a newspaper report that the fertilizer company might get bought by Brazil's Vale.
Nokia earnings also soured investors as the company beat estimates but cut its outlook for second-half profit.
Marriott dropped as well after it said net income fell 76 percent in the second quarter.
And Harley-Davidson reported that earnings fell 91 percent and the company would have to lay off 1,000 workers and cut shipments. Investors, though, gave the company a vote of confidence for its cost-cutting measures.
Disney posted a solid gain after Bernstein upgraded the entertainment giant to "outperform." Alcoa also was among the index's leaders while Bank of America was the weakest of the bluechips.
Wednesday's strong rally put Wall Street in territory it hadn't seen in quite a while: the Nasdaq finished at its highest since Oct. 6, while the Dow and the Nasdaq had their biggest one-day percentage gains since April 9.
The Nasdaq is now riding a six-session winning streak during which it's gained 6.7 percent, and it now leads the major averages with a year-to-date gain of 18.1 percent.