Stocks coasted higher for the second-straight as optimism increased that Greece will complete a debt-swap deal.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 70.61 points, or 0.6%, to 12907.94. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index advanced 13.28 points, or 1%, to 1365.91. The S&P 500 has climbed 1.7% over the past two sessions, the best two-day streak for the benchmark this year. The Nasdaq Composite tacked on 34.73 points, or 1.2%, to 2970.42.
All sectors traded up, and growth-sensitive materials and industrial stocks led the way. Alcoa climbed 22 cents, or 2.3%, to $9.77, and Caterpillar rose 2.00, or 1.9%, to 110.28 to notch the Dow's biggest gains on a percentage basis. Shares of McDonald's weighed on the blue chips, however, after the fast-food-restaurant operator reported global same-store sales grew more slowly than expected. Shares fell 3.22, or 3.2%, to 96.96.
Stocks opened in positive territory and maintained the early gains through the afternoon as investors weighed news reports of rising private-sector participation in Greece's debt-restructuring plan.
"As of now, it looks like everything is going in favor of the Greeks," said Reed Choate, a portfolio manager at boutique asset manager Neville, Rodie & Shaw in New York.
Stocks rose in the face of mixed readings from the U.S. labor market. The Labor Department said the number of workers filing for new unemployment benefits rose 8,000 last week, more than forecasts for a rise of 2,000. But outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said planned layoffs announced by U.S. employers fell 3.3% in February from the month earlier.
Thursday's news from the labor market precedes Friday's monthly employment report. Economists are forecasting the unemployment rate will hold steady at 8.3% in February and that the economy added 213,000 jobs.
European markets ended sharply higher. The Stoxx Europe 600 was up 1.6%, buoyed by the belief the participation rate of private-sector creditors in Greek debt swap will be high enough for Greece to receive another round of bailout funds and avoid a disorderly default.
Asian exchanges also rallied. China's Shanghai Composite climbed 1.1% and Japan's Nikkei Stock Average surged 2%, as both snapped three-session declines.
Crude futures gained 0.4% to $106.58 a barrel, while gold futures tacked on 0.9% to $1698.10 a troy ounce. The dollar was mixed, losing ground against the euro but rising against the yen. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.014%.
In corporate news, the U.S. Treasury sold $6 billion worth of American International Group's common stock. Shares fell 1.14, or 3.9%, to 28.31, and were the biggest decliners on the S&P 500.
Navistar International fell 76 cents, or 1.9%, 39.27 after reporting a fiscal first-quarter loss, as higher expenses and engine-warranty costs offset rising sales of commercial trucks.
Coach shot up 3.40, or 4.6%, 76.79, to an all-time high, after executives said at an industry conference that the leather-goods retailer is well positioned for growth in area such as China, as well as in men's merchandise. Chief Executive Lew Frankfort disclosed that the fiscal third quarter has been "excellent."
Williams-Sonoma reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and revenue slightly above expectations. The high-end home-furnishing retailer also said its chief financial officer, Sharon McCollam, plans to retire March 16 and named its current treasurer and controller, Julie Whalen, as acting finance chief. Shares fell 2.22, or 5.9%, to 35.62.
Johnson & Johnson's new drug Zytiga improved survival in a clinical trial of men with prostate cancer who hadn't undergone chemotherapy, and shares rose 55 cents, or 0.9%, 64.85.
Shares of Medivation jumped 8.72, or 14%,, to 72.91 as the company has developed a similar prostate-cancer drug in collaboration with Canada's Astellas Pharma Inc. Meanwhile, Dendreon tumbled 75 cents, or 7%, to 10.12, with Zytiga seen as a competitive threat to its Provenge prostate-cancer drug.
AMAG Pharmaceuticals said late Wednesday the first Phase 3 study of its anemia drug Feraheme met its main efficacy endpoint, and shares rose 1.67, or 11%, to 16.65.
Apple was warned by the U.S. Justice Department that the company and five of the largest U.S. publishers may be sued for allegedly colluding to raise prices of electronic books. Apple's stock edged up 11.30, or 2.1%, to 541.99.
-By Chris Dieterich, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2611; email@example.com