U.S. stocks gained ground on Thursday after bellwether FedEx offered a bullish forecast and as investors poured money into shares that have done well.

FedEx Corp raised its full-year outlook on unexpectedly strong holiday volume and an improved economic view, though it reported quarterly profit and revenue that missed expectations.

Shares of FedEx rose 1.9 percent to $94.15, helping the S&P industrials sector index <.GSPI> gain 1.1 percent and helping to lift the Dow Jones Transportation Average <.DJT> by 1.4 percent. For details, see [ID:nN16208769]

Stocks gained momentum by midday, with big gainers for the year boosting the Nasdaq. Intuit Inc , which is up about 60 percent for the year, gained 2.9 percent to $49.30, and Amazon.com Inc , up 32 percent for the year, rose 1.4 percent to $178.10. Investors are also hoping consumers will be less frugal over the holiday shopping season, which could benefit Amazon.

People are adjusting their portfolios to reflect what they wish they'd done earlier, said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.

Economic data provided a positive backdrop, with factory activity in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region unexpectedly rising in December, while jobless claims dipped for a second week. November housing starts rose, but permits for future home construction dropped to a 1-1/2 year low.

We continue to see economic data that supports a more bullish tone, said Channing Smith, vice president of Capital Advisors in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Investors don't see a lot of near-term risk on the horizon.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 46.85 points, or 0.41 percent, to 11,504.32. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 7.66 points, or 0.62 percent, to 1,242.89. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> climbed 19.07 points, or 0.73 percent, to 2,636.29.

Also on the Nasdaq, Starbucks Corp rose 2.2 percent to $32.58 after Goldman Sachs resumed coverage of the restaurant sector and gave the coffee chain a conviction buy rating with a $44 price target.

Worries over sovereign debt persisted after Spain paid a hefty premium at its final bond auction of the year. Also, the European Central Bank increased its financial firepower in the debt crisis by almost doubling its capital to cope with increased credit risk and market volatility.

In a widening probe of insider trading at hedge funds, three technology executives and a salesman for an expert network firm were arrested and charged with leaking confidential information about companies including Apple Inc and Advanced Micro Devices Inc .

(Editing by Jan Paschal and Chizu Nomiyama)