Technology shares drove Wall Street higher on Thursday on bets ahead of Intel's quarterly results that business spending will bolster profits in the sector.

Intel Corp , a Dow component and the world's largest chipmaker, after the bell reported a quarterly profit that beat expectations. Its shares had risen 2.5 percent ahead of the results.

Intel results tell you a lot about what companies are capable of doing post-recession, said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald & Co in San Francisco.

Even on flat revenues companies are going to make money. That's the coattail that Intel is going to have for everybody tomorrow.

Software was also boosted in regular trading after Morgan Stanley added Oracle Corp , the world's No. 2 business software maker behind Microsoft Corp , to its best ideas list and raised its price target.

Oracle gained 2.5 percent to $25.37 and Microsoft rose 2 percent to $30.96, leading gains in the Nasdaq <.IXIC>.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> added 29.78 points, or 0.28 percent, to 10,710.55. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 2.78 points, or 0.24 percent, to 1,148.46. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> gained 8.84 points, or 0.38 percent, to 2,316.74.

After the bell, Intel shares gained 1.7 percent to $21.85 and stock futures ticked higher as trading resumed after 4:30 p.m. (2130 GMT). Shares of Advanced Micro Devices , an Intel rival, and Microsoft also rose in after-hours trade.

During regular trading, the market rose despite an unexpected drop in December U.S. retail sales and an increase in new jobless claims last week that topped estimates.

The market was able to shrug off the data because as long as news is bad, government stimulus will keep coming, said Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist at in Shrewsbury, New Jersey.

In the financial sector, the KBW bank index <.BKX> was up 1.6 percent, led mainly by regional and mid-size banks. Comerica Inc jumped 2.9 percent to $34.13 after brokerage Raymond James upgraded its stock.

Bank shares were in the spotlight after U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday proposed a fee to make big banks repay taxpayers for bailouts.

The sector had fallen earlier in the week on speculation about the fee.

On the New York Stock Exchange nearly 890 million shares changed hands, below last year's estimated daily average of 2.18 billion. On the Nasdaq, about 2.29 billion shares traded, above last year's daily average of 1.63 billion.

Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a ratio of about 4 to 3, while on the Nasdaq nearly 7 stocks rose for every 5 that fell.

(Additional reporting by Ellis Mnyandu; Editing by Leslie Adler)