Wall Street hit new records amid solid earnings from corporate America including Whole Foods, while China posted better-than-expected trade data and Germany showed an unexpected increase in industrial production.
Shares of grocery-store chain Whole Foods jumped, last up 9.9 per cent, after the company raised its full-year forecast. Shares of retailer JC Penney also gained, last 6.7 per cent higher, as the department-store retailer's preliminary fiscal first-quarter sales were better than expected.
"This is the first time the news hasn't been horrific," Liz Dunn, an analyst at Macquarie Group in New York, told Bloomberg News, referring JC Penney results. "The numbers aren't that bad."
In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 per cent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index increased 0.3 per cent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.4 per cent. The S&P 500 climbed to a record 1,631.24 earlier in the session, while the Dow reached a high of 15,082.47.
Scott Black, president of Boston-based Delphi Management, said he expects the S&P 500 will extend its record rally, underpinned by the US Federal Reserve's stimulus measures.
"There's room to go on the upside, especially since you're getting nothing on the fixed-income side," Black told Bloomberg. "There's every indication that Ben Bernanke is going to remain accommodative because we're not even near the threshold where he wants to get unemployment back under 6.5 per cent."
Shares in Delta Airlines were 2.7 per cent higher after the carrier said it plans to return US$1 billion to shareholders by buying back its own shares and restarting a dividend that it halted a decade ago.
In Europe, stocks were buoyed by better-than-expected data from the region's largest economy, providing fresh signals of a recovery. German industrial production rose 1.2 per cent in March, surprising economists who had predicted a decline of 0.1 per cent.
The benchmark Stoxx 600 Index advanced 0.6 per cent, while Germany's DAX added 0.8 per cent. The UK's FTSE 100 gained 0.4 per cent, while France's CAC 40 climbed 0.9 per cent.
"It looks as if the outlook for German industry is clearing slowly but surely," ING senior economist Carsten Brzeski told Reuters. "There's a lot of contradictory signs ... but industrial production looks OK-we will get out of the contraction of the fourth quarter and though we're not accelerating as much as in 2010, we won't have a recession."
In China, exports jumped 14.7 per cent in April, while imports rose 16.8 per cent, both exceeding expectations and bolstering hope that the world's second-largest economy is stronger than previously thought.