After suffering choppy trading for much of Wednesday's session, stocks ultimately closed higher on the day. The uncertainty seen for most of the day came as investors responded to a mix of positive and negative news from both the economic and corporate fronts.

In economic news, wholesale inventories fell by much more than economists had been expecting in the month of February, according to a report released by the Commerce Department, although the report also showed an increase in wholesale sales.

Later, stocks saw some weakness on the heels of the minutes of the March Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which said that committee members remain concerned about downside risks to an already weak outlook for economic activity.

The minutes showed that nearly all of the meeting participants felt that economic conditions had deteriorated relative to their expectations at the time of the January meeting.

On the corporate front, Pulte Homes (PHM) has agreed to acquire rival Centex Corp. (CTX) in a stock-for-stock deal. The deal is valued at $1.3 billion and will create the nation's largest homebuilding company.

Meanwhile, Dow component Alcoa (AA) reported a $497 million net loss for the first quarter, hurt by the impact of the economic downturn on its core industrial and commercial markets as well as an historic decline in aluminum prices.

The major averages all ended the day in positive territory, although off their best levels of the day. The Dow closed up 47.55 points or 0.6 percent at 7,837.11, the Nasdaq closed up 29.05 points or 1.9 percent at 1,590.66 and the S&P 500 closed up 9.61 points or 1.2 percent at 825.16.

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