NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. markets closed higher Wednesday with the Standard & Poor's 500 rising for a third consecutive month as fewer U.S. residents filed for unemployment benefits than projected, and a gauge of consumer sentiment showed signs of improved.

  • The S&P 500 closed 0.25% higher to 1,807.23 to extend the benchmark gauge's 2013 advance to 26.7%
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.15% to 16,097.3
  • The Nasdaq jumped 0.67% to 4,044.75 after closing above 4,000 yesterday for the first time in 13 years. A surge in tech stocks was led by Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) - Get Report, which soared 9.1% to $26.36 after beating analyst estimates with earnings of $1.01 a share on revenue of $29.1 billion.

Heading into the Thanksgiving weekend, investors were cheered by two relatively good pieces of data:

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  • Fewer U.S. residents filed jobless claims last week than expected -- a sign of improvement in the labor market. Jobless claims for the week ending Nov. 23 fell to 316,000 or the lowest in two months. Expectations were for 330,000 claims.
  • Consumer sentiment in the U.S. rose more than expected in November to 75.1, according to the University of Michigan. Expectations had been for a result of 73.5 up slightly from 73.2 in October.

Over in Europe: A key measure of German consumer confidence hit its highest level since August 2007, fueling gains in emerging markets. British economic growth accelerated by 0.8% in the third quarter due mainly to a rise in household spending. The Japanese yen fell against other major currencies for the fifth consecutive day while the sterling rallied.

Durable-good orders fell in October, reflecting a hit to confidence from the government shutdown. Bookings fell 2% to match expectations after a 4.1% rise in September. Durable-goods orders are a leading indicator of industrial production and capital spending.

Germany's DAX closed 0.66% higher while the FTSE was up 0.20%. The Hang Seng closed up 0.53% while the Nikkei was down 0.42%. Oil was off 1.51% to $92.27.

--By Jane Searle in New York