The S&P 500 added 9.50 points, or 0.52 percent on the day, adding to Tuesday's solid gain, as investors turned their attention to corporate reports for the fourth quarter that are beginning to trickle in.
Bank of America reported fourth-quarter earnings that topped expectations, putting some confidence bank into Wall Street, where the prolonged 2013 rally was starting to look shaky.
"There's a little bit of enthusiasm reversal," chief global strategist at brokerage BTIG Dan Greenhaus told the Wall Street Journal.
"We feel earnings are going to be OK," he said.
Retail sales rose 0.2 percent November to December. Economist had predicted a 0.1 percent gain.
Blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average, which had slipped after establishing its record close on the last session of 2013 at 16,576.66 points, added 108.08 points Wednesday, 0.66 percent, to climb back to 16,481.94. The Nasdaq composite index gained 31.87 points, 0.76 percent, to close at 4,214.88.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,999 issues advanced and 1,055 declined on a volume of 3.7 billion shares traded.
In Europe, London's FTSE 100 added 53 points, 0.78 percent, to reach 6,819.86.
The 10-year U.S. treasury was yielding 2.896 percent, off 6/32.
The euro traded marginally higher at $1.3604 and the dollar was higher against the yen at 104.60 yen.
Gold dropped $4.20 to hit $1,241.20 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Silver lost 10.2 cents to reach $20.18.
Crude oil surged $1.74 in late trading to hit $94.33 per barrel.
On the Chicago Board of Trade, March corn shed 5.25 cents to $4.2625 per bushel. Soybeans gained 10.5 cents to $13.175. Wheat shed 12.25 cents to $5.67.