The Dow added 0.4%, the S&P 500 rose 0.33%, and the Nasdaq climbed 0.44%.
American Express gained more than 4% following a first-quarter earnings beat. The credit card company reported earnings of $1.34 a share on revenue of $7.9 billion. Analysts anticipated $1.28 a share in earnings on sales of roughly $7.7 billion. Excluding its Costco-related revenue, adjusted sales came in 7% higher than a year earlier.
Qualcomm (QCOM - Get Report) turned lower despite better-than-expected earnings and sales over its fiscal second quarter. Per-share earnings of $1.34 a share beat expectations of $1.19, while revenue of $5.99 billion came in higher than analysts' targets of $5.89 billion. Qualcomm's third-quarter profit guidance of 90 cents to $1.15 a share bracketed estimates of $1.09.
The chipmaker is currently embroiled in two different lawsuits over high patent fees, including a $1 billion claim against it by Apple (AAPL - Get Report) . The company, which is one of Apple's suppliers, said it is not clear whether Apple's contract manufacturers will underpay royalties owed under their contracts this quarter.
Verizon (VZ - Get Report) declined 1.8% after just falling shy of profit estimates over its first quarter and reporting a decline in revenue. Adjusted earnings of 95 cents a share came in a penny short of estimates. Revenue fell to $29.81 billion over the quarter, down from $32.17 a year earlier and below consensus of $30.41 billion. Wireless customers fell for the first time. The telecom committed to previous 2017 guidance.
Travelers (TRV - Get Report) reported a drop in quarterly profit as catastrophe losses rose over the first quarter. The insurance company earned net income of $2.17 a share over its recent quarter, down from $2.30 a share a year earlier and below estimates of $2.37 a share. CEO Alan Schnitzer said the company saw "unusually high first quarter catastrophe losses that arose from a record number of tornado and hail events."
Fellow insurer Allstate (ALL - Get Report) said it anticipates first-quarter catastrophe losses to equal roughly $508 million. Allstate said severe hail in Texas in March accounted for a third of the total losses for the quarter. The company is set to report its first-quarter performance on May 2.
eBay (EBAY - Get Report) fell 3% after earnings and sales came in largely in-line with estimates. The auction site earned 49 cents a share, just a penny higher than expected. Revenue rose 3.7% to $2.22 billion, meeting analysts' consensus. eBay said total global active buyers surged by 2 million over the first quarter to 169 million.
Foot Locker (FL - Get Report) rose 4% despite warning of lower profit in its first quarter than previously anticipated. The athletic footwear retailer expects first-quarter earnings between $1.36 to $1.39 a share, while same-store sales should rise in the low single-digit percentages. Analysts anticipated earnings of $1.47 a share, though same-store sales expectations were in-line. CEO Richard Johnson said the slower arrival time of income tax refunds had contributed to disappointing February same-store sales.
So far, 11% of S&P 500 companies have reported on their quarters and nearly a third of Dow companies have reported or will report this week. Analysts anticipate blended earnings growth of almost 11%, according to Thompson Reuters.
Virtu Financial (VIRT - Get Report) rose more than 8% after agreeing to acquire KCG Holdings (KCG) in a deal with total value of $1.4 billion. The securities company said it woul purchase KCG for $20 a share, 13% above Wednesday's close. Virtu will borrow $1.65 billion and sell $750 million in stock to finance the acquisition. The deal should close in the third quarter.
Buffalo Wild Wings' (BWLD) activist investor Marcato Capital Management wants the restaurant chain to oust CEO Sally Smith in addition to the four board seats it has already been seeking. In a proxy filing, Marcato managing partner Mick McGuire said, "The status quo is unacceptable -- oversight and accountability must be restored." McGuire said Marcato's nominees would "recapture operating margin opportunities, allocate capital intelligently, and employ an efficient franchising plan."
A Buffalo Wild Wings spokesperson responded in a statement that the company had flourished under Smith's leadership and that the wings chain had "continued to innovate and pursue cost savings initiatives amid difficult market conditions for the sector."
The stock rose 3.9%.
Weekly jobless claims in the U.S. rose over the past week, though held at multi-year lows. New claims for unemployment benefits increased by 10,000 in the last week to 244,000. The four-week jobless claims average fell by 4,250 to 243,000. Continuing jobless claims came in at 1.98 million, a 17-year low.
Manufacturing activity in Philadelphia eased in April after reaching its highest level in three decades earlier in the year. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve's manufacturing index declined to 22 from 32.8 in March. The measure hit a 33-year high of 43.3 in February. The index remains above zero, indicating expansion.
Wall Street continued to look to geopolitical developments for direction on Thursday. A recent statement from Donald Trump that the U.S. wants peace followed by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley's message to North Korea on Wednesday that, "We're not trying to pick a fight" appeared to help take the edge off of recent worries over brewing tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.
Meanwhile, state media in North Korea warned the U.S. of a "super-mighty pre-emptive strike" on Thursday after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested he would find ways to be harder on the country over its nuclear program. Tillerson said on Wednesday that he was considering ways to "bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to re-engage with us, but re-engage with us on a different footing than past talks have been held."
West Texas Intermediate crude was down 0.2% at $50.36 a barrel on Thursday.