China said its exports grew 25 percent in January from a year ago, the strongest showing since April 2011 and well ahead of market expectations for a 17 percent rise, while imports also beat forecasts, surging 28.8 percent on the year.
(Read More: Exactly How Skewed Is China's Trade Data?)
Meanwhile, German data showed a 2012 surplus that was the nation's second highest in more than 60 years.
CIT Group rallied amid a report from Reuters that the bank holding company held preliminary talks over the past 18 months to sell itself to banks including Toronto-Dominion and Wells Fargo, though nothing came of the conversations. However, a CIT spokesman declined to comment.
McDonald's edged higher even after the fast-food giant said January same-store sales around the world dropped 1.9 percent, a steeper decline than analysts expected. McDonald's warned last month that sales would be lower.
Among earnings, LinkedIn surged after the social-networking website blew past earnings expectations and handed in current-quarter revenue guidance that exceeded Wall Street expectations.
Activision Blizzard soared after the videogame publisher topped earnings and revenue expectations and handed in current-quarter guidance that beat estimates.
Moody's topped earnings expectations and forecast strong 2013 earnings. But shares of the ratings agency slumped to lead the S&P 500 laggards on worries over a federal fraud lawsuit.
So far, almost 60 percent of S&P 500 companies have posted quarterly results, with 70 percent of firms topping earnings expectations and 66 percent exceeding revenue estimates, according to Thomson Reuters. If all remaining companies report earnings in line with estimates, earnings will be up 5.2 percent from the fourth quarter of last year.
In Europe, a two-day European Union (EU) summit continued in Brussels, the first since Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed Britain will hold a referendum on EU membership. Early on the day, EU leaders agreed to the framework for a new 960 billion euro ($1.3 trillion) budget, to be finalized later on Friday.
(Read More: Why This Was a Pivotal Week for Europe)