The Dow and S&P 500 rose slightly on Thursday after a joint statement by France and Germany eased some jitters about resolving the European debt crisis.
Throughout much of the session stocks seesawed between gains and losses on market jitters about a European Union summit on Sunday as investors reacted to a flood of headlines about efforts to deal with Greece and other debt-laden euro zone countries.
There is still a lot left that they need to decide on and sort out. We still don't know how this is going to be structured and how much of this safety net will be replenished, said Bryant Evans, portfolio manager at Cozad Asset Management in Champaign, Illinois.
France and Germany said European leaders would discuss a global solution to the crisis on Sunday but no decisions would be adopted before a second meeting to be held by Wednesday at the latest.
Reflecting market worries, the CBOE Volatility Index VIX .VIX, Wall Street's fear gauge, rose 2.5 percent to 35.29, extending gains after rising nearly 10 percent on Wednesday.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI gained 60.02 points, or 0.52 percent, to 11,564.64. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX rose 8.27 points, or 0.68 percent, to 1,218.15. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC added 0.53 point, or 0.02 percent, to 2,604.57.
Progress by EU leaders toward a solution is considered vital for Wall Street stocks to break out of their trading range.
The S&P 500 has struggled after reaching the top end of a two-month trading range at around the 1,230-1,250 level.
Investors are also closely watching the developing U.S. earnings season. According to Thomson Reuters data, of the 109 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 70 percent have topped analysts' expectations.
Microsoft (MSFT.O) is set to report earnings after the bell.
Ingersoll Rand Plc (IR.N) posted lower quarterly earnings, and its fourth-quarter profit forecast fell short of some Wall Street estimates, due to depressed housing and consumer markets, sending shares down 7.6 percent to $27.49.
Polycom Inc (PLCM.O) fell 23.5 percent to $16.71 and weighed on the Nasdaq after the videoconferencing company reported quarterly revenue well below market expectations. The NYSEArca networking index .NWX lost 2.2 percent.