The S&P 500 rallied past 1,400 for the first time since 2008 on Thursday as U.S. data supported brighter views of the economy, with crude prices off on news Britain and the United States could release oil stocks to keep growth on track.

The S&P .SPX hit an intraday high of 1,402.35, its highest since early June, 2008, despite choppy trading earlier in the session.

 is important because of the trend, it confirms the upward bias in the market, said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Capital in Jersey City, New Jersey. There is a built-in momentum trend as a result of the economic data.

Data on Thursday bolstered views that the world's biggest economy is gathering steam. New claims for jobless benefits fell to a four-year low last week, while surveys from regional Federal Reserve banks showed gains in manufacturing in New York and a pickup in business conditions in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region.

The data came in the same week that the U.S. Federal Reserve offered a cautiously optimistic view of the economy, with analysts saying the bank was edging away from adding more stimulus to an economy that seemed to be recovering on its own.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI and the Nasdaq .IXIC also advanced on Thursday.

Trading was volatile at the start of quadruple witching, the expiration and settlement of four types of equity futures and options contracts.

Shares in Apple Inc (AAPL.O) hit an all-time high above $600 in early trading, with some analysts predicting the stock will move to $700 within 12 months.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 33.26 points, or 0.25 percent, at 13,227.36. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was up 6.89 points, or 0.49 percent, at 1,401.17. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was up 17.56 points, or 0.58 percent, at 3,058.29.

The positive U.S. data also helped European stocks to close near 33-week highs.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 of top European shares finished up 0.3 percent at 1,101.46 after hitting its highest since August in the previous session. The index is already up 10 percent this year, almost fully recovering after its 10.7 percent decline last year.

Crude futures fell after news that Britain has decided to cooperate with the United States in a bilateral agreement to release strategic oil stocks.

Rising gasoline costs have worried economists, with U.S. consumers pressured by high prices at the pump, left with less money to spend elsewhere.

Details of the timing, volume and duration of the emergency drawdown have yet to be settled but a detailed agreement is expected by the summer, one source told Reuters.

Expiring Brent April crude fell 0.78 percent to $124.00 per barrel. U.S. April crude dipped 0.05 percent to $105.38 per barrel.

U.S. Treasury prices slipped as the advance in stocks discouraged bidding for safe-haven U.S. debt.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 1/32, the yield at 2.2705 percent.

The dollar also fell from an 11-month high against the yen and a one-month high against the euro.

The greenback dropped 0.5 percent to 83.22 yen and the euro advanced 0.61 percent to $1.3106.