Story was updated at 4 p.m. EDT.

U.S. stocks closed higher Thursday after the European Central Bank (ECB) left open the possibility of further monetary easing. Meanwhile, Wall Street took in the latest batch of earnings, including surprises from McDonald’s and Dow Chemical, and reacted positively to U.S. economic data on jobless claims.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) gained 320.55 points, or 1.87 percent, to 17,489. The S&P 500 index (INDEXSP:.INX) advanced 33.57 points, or 1.66 percent, to 2,053. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) rose 79.93  points, or 1.65 percent, to 4,920. Nine out of 10 S&P 500 sectors closed up Thursday morning, led by industrial and raw materials.

McDonald's Corporation (NYSE:MCD) closed up 8.12 percent to $110.87 after hitting its 52-week high in intraday trading. The world’s biggest restaurant chain reported a surprising jump in third quarter sales, its first increase in more than a year.

European stocks got a boost after ECB President Mario Draghi said at a news conference that inflation in the eurozone remained unchanged since central bank's last meeting, which means the quantitative easing program the ECB began in March would likely continue. Draghi’s remarks pushed the euro down more than 1.5 percent against the dollar.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased less than expected last week, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. Jobless claims increased by 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 259,000 for the week ended Oct. 17. It was the 33rd consecutive week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, considered a sign of a strengthening jobs market.

Optimism on the state of corporate America rose after a slew of earnings were announced before markets opened Thursday.

McDonald's said third-quarter, same-store global sales jumped 4 percent, much higher than Wall Street’s estimated 1.9 percent. The Illinois-based company said demand recovered in China after last year’s food-safety scandal touched a Shanghai food processing factory. U.S. sales improved on a breakfast-all-day menu change.

Higher franchise fees and Baskin Robbins ice cream sales helped Dunkin Brands Group Inc. (NASDAQ:DNKN) report better-than-expected third-quarter revenue and profit. The Massachusetts-based coffee chain has been struggling with tepid U.S. sales.

Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE:DOW) surprised Wall Street with higher-than-expected profit and a quarterly dividends increase. The Michigan-based science and technology company said it would restructure its Kuwait joint ventures and review options for its struggling agro-sciences business.

Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) said net profit tumbled in its third quarter as worldwide construction, oil and gas drilling and mining activity retreated. Net income for the Illinois-based heavy machinery maker plummeted to $368 million from $1.02 billion in the same quarter last year.

United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE:UAL) reported lower-than-expected earnings in the third quarter and said it expects significantly lower revenue in the fourth quarter as a strong dollar impacted global sales for the Chicago-based parent of United Airlines.

Raytheon Company (NYSE:RTN) reported 13 percent lower earnings, to $448 million, due to its $1.9 billion acquisition of cybersecurity firm Websense, but the Massachusetts-based weapons manufacturer raised its full-year revenue forecast on expectations of strong Patriot and TOW missile sales.