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Stocks close higher after Twitter and Ford earnings beat the Street, Dow jumps 71 points

  • Twitter's stock rose 18.5 percent after the social media company posted earnings per share and revenue that beat Wall Street expectations.
  • Automaker Ford also reported better-than-expected quarterly results; its stock rose 1.9 percent. The company also raised its full-year guidance.

U.S. stocks closed higher on Thursday as the latest set of earnings reports gave investors a positive surprise.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 71.40 points to close at 23,400.86. Nike led advancers on the Dow, rising 3.4 percent to add to its Wednesday gains after the company raised growth targets at its investor day.

The S&P 500 gained 0.13 percent to finish at 2,560.40. Union Pacific rose 5.7 percent after the company reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings and was S&P 500's best-performing stock.

The Nasdaq composite fell 0.1 percent to 6,556.77 ahead of earnings reports from tech giants Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon.

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"The main driver for the stock market right now is earnings," said Ernie Cecilia, CIO at Bryn Mawr Trust. "In terms of earnings, the numbers have been pretty good."

Twitter's stock rose 18.5 percent after the social media company posted earnings per share and revenue that beat Wall Street expectations. The stock was also on track for its best day since September 2016.

Automaker Ford also reported better-than-expected quarterly results; its stock rose 1.9 percent. The company also raised its full-year guidance.

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Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images

"We had some good news from the 'social' sector this morning with Twitter," said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. "What's exciting about it is that it shows the resilience of the market."

"These are stocks that are coming off of a few quarters in a row of disappointing expectations," he added, noting Buffalo Wild Wings's earnings beat on Wednesday. "What's nice about them is that they've found a way to rejigger their business model to make money."

News related to the two biggest central banks also dominated Wall Street.

The European Central Bank announced it would extend its bond-buying program until September 2018. The announcement sent the euro down against the dollar; it was last trading at $1.165, down 1.4 percent.

In the U.S., Politico reported, citing a source, that current Fed Chair Janet Yellen was out of the running for the position heading into next year. Yellen's term is up in 2018.

"Earnings are dominating investor interest followed by policy," said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager at the Private Client Reserve at U.S. Bank. "For stocks to advance further, we're going to need further evidence" of earnings growth. "We're also waiting" to find out who the next Fed chair will be.

Stock futures briefly dipped on the report, but managed to regain most of their losses.

Equities have been trading near record highs recently on increasing hope of U.S. tax reform. The House narrowly passed a Senate version of the 2018 budget, marking a significant step toward the GOP passing tax reform.