U.S. stocks closed sharply higher Wednesday, as the Nasdaq composite came within 13 points of its all-time closing high of 5,048.62, last seen during the dotcom bubble in 2000. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly added 100 points in the last hour of trading as gains in three blue-chip components, Visa Inc., McDonald's Corporation and Coca-Cola Co., led the index higher.

The Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) climbed 88.68 points, or 0.49 percent, to close at 18,038.27. The Standard & Poor's 500 (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) added 10.67 points, or 0.51 percent, to finish at 2,107.96. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) rose 21.07 points, or 0.42 percent, to end at 5,035.17. 

Notable companies reporting quarterly earnings after the closing bell include social networking giant Facebook Inc., semiconductor company Qualcomm Inc. and telecommunications provider AT&T Inc.

Economists and investors are looking ahead to Thursday’s economic calendar, which includes weekly jobless claims, or the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 12,000 to a six-week high of 294,000 for the week ended April 11, the Labor Department said last week.

Economists expect jobless claims fell 4,000 to 290,000 last week, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

The Nasdaq got a boost Wednesday as shares of Broadcom Corporation (NASDAQ:BRCM) rallied 5 percent after the semiconductor company delivered a 27 percent jump in first-quarter earnings, sending its stock to a 52-week high this week of $46.50.

Meanwhile, shares of Dow component Visa Inc. (NYSE:V) leaped more than 4 percent to close at $68.01 after China announced it will open up its market for clearing domestic bank card transactions.

Separately, shares of McDonald's Corporation (NYSE:MCD) and Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE:KO) rallied 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively. The world's biggest fast-food company announced a new turnaround plan to be revealed early next month, while the world’s largest beverage company reported its first quarterly sales gain in two years.

Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA) dropped 1.4 percent to close at $151.19 after the jet maker’s quarterly revenue missed forecasts, as sales last quarter came in at $22.1 billion, down from $22.5 billion a year ago.

Ahead of the opening bell Thursday, General Motors Company, Pepsico Inc. and Caterpillar Inc. will report quarterly results, while Starbucks Corporation, Google Inc., Microsoft Corporation and Amazon.com Inc. post earnings after the closing bell.