During early U.S. trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.19%, the S&P 500 index added 0.18%, while the Nasdaq Composite index dipped 0.05%.
The U.S. Department of Labor said in a report earlier that the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending December 22 fell by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 350,000, compared to expectations for a decline of 2,000 to 360,000.
Jobless claims for the preceding week were revised up to 362,000 from a previously reported 361,000.
Meanwhile, market players remained focused on developments surrounding the fiscal cliff in the U.S., approximately USD600 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts due to come into effect on January 1.
President Barack Obama was to end his vacation and return to Washington on Thursday in order to take part in talks to avert the crisis ahead of the year-end deadline. Both chambers of Congress are also due to return to work on Thursday.
Without a deal, the U.S. could fall back into recession and drag much of the world down with it.
U.S.-traded shares of Toyota Motor jumped 1.75% after the auto maker said it plans to settle a U.S. class-action lawsuit for USD1.1 billion.
Financial stocks added to gains, as shares in Citigroup rose 0.33% and Goldman Sachs advanced 0.63%, while Bank of America rallied 0.78%. JP Morgan underperformed on the other hand, dipping 0.05%.
On the downside, Marvell Technology dove 4.62% after a federal grand jury ruled that chipmaker infringed two patents held by Carnegie Mellon University and ordered it to pay USD1.17 billion in damages.
In Internet-related stocks, Amazon.com dropped 0.58%, even as a survey released on Thursday said the company remained the best website for shopping online while JC Penney suffered the largest drop in customer satisfaction of any major online retailer this holiday season.
The news sent shares in JC Penney down 1.25%.
Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were higher. The EURO STOXX 50 climbed 0.58%, France’s CAC 40 advanced 0.83%, Germany's DAX rose 0.43%, while Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.34%.
During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced 0.35%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index jumped 0.91%.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish data on new home sales and consumer confidence.