Stocks rose on Thursday, with the Dow industrials breaking the key 9,000 mark, as investors saw strong quarterly results, including from 3M Co , and improving home sales data as signs the economy is stabilizing.

The market extended its earnings-fueled early gains after data showed sales of used homes rose in June, making it the first time since 2004 that measure rose three months in a row. The Dow Jones home construction index <.DJUSHB> rallied more than 4 percent.

Results from bellwethers including AT&T Inc on Thursday and eBay Inc a day earlier ignited a rally that took the S&P 500 index to its highest level in 2009.

The news came out as positive as one could have hoped for. There is no reason to sell based on the news today, said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management Corp in Chicago.

The market likes almost all news this morning. The trend of earnings exceeding expectations continued, against a bar set pretty low.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 151.15 points, or 1.70 percent, to 9,032.41. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> added 17.70 points, or 1.86 percent, to 971.77. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> gained 34.91 points, or 1.81 percent, to 1,961.29.

The recent batch of corporate results has lifted stocks, with the Nasdaq sealing on Wednesday an 11-day winning streak, its longest such run since 1996. The Dow industrials rose on Thursday above 9,000 points for the first time since January.

3M's shares rose 4 percent to $67.29, making it the top boost to the Dow industrials, after the diversified manufacturer handily beat Wall Street's profit expectations and lifted its revenue outlook for 2009.

Blue-chip AT&T posted a smaller-than-expected drop in quarterly profit as strong sales of Apple Inc's iPhone helped boost wireless subscriber growth, and its shares rose 4 percent to $25.84.

Shares of eBay Inc jumped 10 percent to $21.40 after the company's results beat market expectations.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co shares gained 1.4 percent to $20.60 after it reported second-quarter earnings above Wall Street's forecast and raised its full-year 2009 earnings forecast.

The company announced late on Wednesday it will buy biotechnology company Medarex Inc , and Medarex shares soared almost 90 percent.

Limiting the Dow industrial's gains, McDonald's Corp shares dropped 3.6 percent to $56.70 after the world's largest hamburger chain posted a lower quarterly profit and lower-than-expected sales.

Shares of Moody's Corp plunged 8 percent to $24.40 after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc lowered its stake in the credit ratings provider.

Earlier on Thursday, U.S. government data showed claims for jobless benefits rose last week, roughly in line with expectations, while continuing claims for the previous week edged lower.

Other companies expected to report quarterly earnings on Thursday include Microsoft Corp , American Express Co and Inc .

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)