Retail sales in January were flat, the National Retail Federation reported, largely due to severe winter weather.
The Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose by 8,000 in the week. Economists had predicted a rise of 1,000.
The Dow Jones industrial average bounced back from Wednesday's one-day slump, gaining 63.65 points, or 0.40 percent, to 16,027.59, notching its fifth gain in the past six sessions.
The Standard & Poor's 500 added 10.57 points, 0.58 percent, to close at 1,829.83. The Nasdaq composite index gained 39.38 points, 0.94 percent, to close at 4,240.67.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 2,292 stocks advanced and 804 declined on a volume of 3.2 billion shares traded.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index shed 265.32 points, 1.79 percent, to 14,534.74.
London's FTSE 100 lost 15.61 points, 0.23 percent, to hit 6,659.42.
The 10-year U.S. treasury was yielding 2.738 percent, up 15/32.
The euro traded at $1.3679 against the dollar. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at 102.22 yen.
Gold gained $6.90 to reach $1,301.80 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Silver added 14.9 cents to hit $20.49 an ounce.
Crude oil lost 6 cents in late trading to reach at $100.31 per barrel on the NYMEX.
On the Chicago Board of Trade, corn for March delivery added 0.25 cents to $4.4025 per bushel. Soybeans gained 19.75 cents to $13.4275. Wheat added 7.5 cents to $5.945.
2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]