The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 6.37 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,585.16. Nine of 10 industry groups rose, led by telecommunications. Verizon Communications, the biggest component in that group, rose 3 percent, to $53.30, after reports it could offer $100 billion to buy Vodafone's interest in their joint venture, Verizon Wireless.
The Nasdaq composite index rose 20.33, or 0.6 percent, to 3,289.99.
The S&P 500 has risen every day since April 19. The forces driving the gains were tenuous, market watchers said. Hiring remains sluggish, even with the drop in unemployment claims last week, and while companies are turning in profits that beat the estimates of financial analysts, many are missing revenue forecasts.
Some investors think the stock market's most recent gains have more to do with the belief that central banks worldwide, including the Federal Reserve, will continue to keep interest rates low and buy bonds to encourage borrowing and spending.
"Some of the earnings were OK, but it's more just stimulus, stimulus, stimulus," said Scott Freeze, president of Street One Financial in Huntingdon Valley. "As long as the world wants to print [money] . . . the fears of a global slowdown are going to be muted."
Weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 16,000, to 339,000, the second-lowest level in more than five years, the Labor Department reported. But Thursday's earnings offered a mixed view of the economy and mixed reactions from investors. Many companies have been reporting better first-quarter results, though gains have come more from cost-cutting than from a strong economy.
Dow Chemical was one example. The company, which reported Thursday, managed to increase profit even as revenue slipped because it cut costs and paid down debt. The stock rose nearly 6 percent, to $33.97.
Grocery chain Safeway reported higher profit with the help of tax benefits. Revenue fell and missed analysts' expectations. Safeway's stock plunged almost 14 percent, to $24.32, as investors worried about competition from dollar and big-box stores.
Children's clothing company Carter's and motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson both rose after reporting higher profit and revenue. Carter's rose 6 percent, to $64.12; Harley rose more than 2 percent, to $54.31.
Profit and revenue also jumped at Royal Caribbean as more people booked vacations than a year ago. The stock jumped more than 5 percent, to $36.07. Last year's results had been hurt because of the sinking of the Costa Concordia, owned by rival cruise line Carnival.