Stocks rose sharply on Thursday, driving the Dow and S&P 500 to fresh 18-month highs, as Qualcomm and Best Buy boosted their profit outlooks and financials surged for a second day.

Shares of Citigroup Inc gained 5.1 percent to $4.36 after Bloomberg News reported the Treasury could unveil a plan next month for the sale of its stake in the big bank.

Wireless chip maker Qualcomm Inc , which raised its second-quarter earnings outlook, led the Nasdaq.

Electronics retailer Best Buy Co forecast stronger-than-expected earnings for the current year and reported quarterly results that were above estimates, pushing up its shares 5.2 percent to $43.31 and lifting shares of electronics parts makers, including Corning .

People are looking to earnings right now to see how consumers (are doing) and whether the recovery is taking hold, said Giri Cherukuri, head trader at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 111.25 points, or 1.03 percent, at 10,947.40. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 12.03 points, or 1.03 percent, at 1,179.75. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 30.76 points, or 1.28 percent, at 2,429.52.

The Dow and S&P 500 rose to their highest in about 18 months, while the Nasdaq advanced to its best level in about 19 months.

First-quarter S&P 500 earnings reports, due in the coming weeks, are forecast to show year-over-year gains of 36.6 percent, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.

Qualcomm's stock rose 6 percent to $42.61.

Also on the Nasdaq, shares of software company Oracle rose 1.6 percent to $26.18 ahead of its results, expected after Thursday's market close.

Corning, which makes glass for liquid crystal displays, jumped 3 percent to $20.05.

Other financial shares on the rise Thursday included Bank of America , up 3.9 percent at $18.26. It was the second day of strong gains for the bank, which on Wednesday said it plans to offer about $3 billion in loan forgiveness to about 45,000 troubled home buyers.

The S&P financial index <.GSPF> was up 2.3 percent on the day and is up 11.1 percent for the month so far.

Adding to the positive tone, data showed the number of U.S. workers filing new applications for unemployment insurance fell sharply last week.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Kenneth Barry)