U.S. stocks advanced Thursday buoyed by a strong reading on the weekly jobless claims and solid monthly sales from retailers. Meanwhile, European markets were lifted by a well-received Spanish auction and news that Greece is one step closer to winning a €130 billion ($173.15 billion) bailout.

The euro area finance ministers signed off in principle on the latest tranch of bailout money that Greece needs to implement its ambitious debt restructuring, declaring that Greece has taken all the legal action needed to secure this second infusion of cash.

Although there were some negative economic indicators today -- an unexpected drop in both the ISM manufacturing index and construction spending -- investors were more focused on the good news from the jobs front, where data showed claims for initial jobless benefits this week held at a four-year low of 351,000, signaling a strengthening labor market.

Here's a look at how the markets played out:

Stocks. Global equities were up, except for Asian bourses. The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 12,980.60, up 28.53. The wider S&P 500 Index rose 8.40 to 1,374.08. The Nasdaq Composite closed at 2,988.97, up 22.08. The Stoxx Europe 600 recorded its biggest January-February increase since 1998, while the Hang Seng lost 1.35 percent.

Bonds. Treasuries prices fell on doubts about a third round of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve. Yields on the 10-year notes, which move inversely to prices, rose 6 basis points to 2.03 percent. Meanwhile, yields on the 5-year notes touched 0.93 percent, the highest level since late December.

Commodities. Oil futures broke through $110 a barrel in after-market trading driven by reports of a Saudi pipeline explosion. Gold for April delivery settled at $1,722.20 an ounce, recovering from a sharp selloff in the previous session. Silver rallied nearly 3 percent.

Currencies. The dollar pared gains against the euro. The dollar index, which gauges the greenback against a basket of major currencies, was slightly higher. Chile's Peso closed weaker.