NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock markets closed far higher on Thursday as the Commerce Department said U.S. gross domestic product rose 3.5% in the third quarter.
Strong earnings from Visa (V) - Get Visa Inc. Class A Report and MasterCard (MA) - Get Mastercard Inc. (MA) Report also drove equity markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 1.30% higher on Thursday, while the S&P 500 rose 0.62% and the Nasdaq turned higher for the day, rising 0.9%.
Watch the video below for a closer look at how U.S. markets ended the trading day Thursday:
GDP growth in the U.S. hit its strongest six-month pace since the financial crisis, while the four-week average of initial jobless claims in October was the lowest in a decade. U.S. gross domestic product grew 3.5% in the third quarter, beating economists' estimates. GDP was forecast to rise just 3% this quarter after a 4.6% increase in the second quarter.
"Headline growth was stronger than expected in the third quarter of the year, raising expectations for continued momentum in the final, fourth quarter of 2014 and beyond," said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Sterne Agee. "Momentum, however, will come from organic job and income growth spurring increased consumption and investment activity," she added.
Jobless claims rose to 287,000 in the final week of October, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Nonetheless, the four-week average of claims fell to its lowest level since 2000, Bloomberg data show.
GDP and employment data bodes well for the upcoming holiday season, especially if consumer confidence holds up amid falling gasoline prices. Earlier this week, the Conference Board said consumer confidence reached a seven-year high.
Thursday's GDP report also served to reinforce the Fed's outlook as it ends its monthly bond-buying, known as quantitative easing. The central bank confirmed Wednesday it was ending its monthly bond-buying program and provided a stronger-than-expected outlook on the U.S. labor market and economy.
The Fed said it is seeing "solid job gains" and falling underutilization in the labor market, indicating its views on the economy are strengthening. "On balance, a range of labor market indicators suggests that underutilization of labor resources is gradually diminishing," the central bank said.
Gold tumbled more than 2% to $1,196 a troy ounce in afternoon trading, the yield on the 10-Year U.S. Treasury was trading at 2.30%.
In stock market news, Visa (V) - Get Visa Inc. Class A Report pushed the Dow higher after it and rival MasterCard (MA) - Get Mastercard Inc. (MA) Report reported better-than-forecast earnings on rising transaction volumes by businesses and consumers. Shares of Visa and MasterCard rose more than 10% and 9%, respectively.
In commodities markets, oil reversed early gains after the Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude oil supplies increased for the fourth straight week on rising oil output. Production over the past four weeks has reached 8.97 million barrels in the U.S, the highest level since the 1980s, Bloomberg data show.
Nymex West Texas Intermediate Crude fell over 1% to $81.07 a barrel, reversing early gains, while ICE Brent Crude closed at $86.13. The EIA said on Thursday the price of gasoline could fall below $3 a gallon in coming weeks, given a lag between falling oil prices and retail prices.
Coffee chain Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Starbucks Corporation Report missed analysts for the third quarter, reporting $4.18 billion in sales and 74-cents in earnings per share. Analysts had forecast $4.23 billion in sales and 74-cents in EPS. Starbucks shares were falling 2.44% in after-hours trading.
LinkedIn (LNKD) reported better-than-expected results and an optimistic fourth quarter guidance after the market close. The company earned 52-cents in the third quarter, exceeding forecasts by 47-cents. Full year EPS is now expected to be $1.89, a slightly higher figure than analysts had forecast
Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report CEO Tim Cook, on Thursday morning, confirmed he is gay in an editorial published in BusinessWeek. "We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick," Cook said.
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) said Thursday that third-quarter profit fell 4.5% to $4.46 billion but rose 24% to $5.27 billion when stripping out the impact of fluctuations in the price of oil. Shares were little on Thursday.
Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA) - Get Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Limited Sponsored ADR Report beat third-quarter earnings forecasts, reporting a profit of $1.32 a share, exceeding estimates of $1.24 a share. Teva shares closed higher by over 3%.
Conoco-Phillips (COP) - Get ConocoPhillips Report also reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings of $1.29 a share, beating estimates by 8 cents. The oil driller’s earnings were bolstered by asset sales. Shares rose less than 1%.
-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York