U.S. stocks inched higher on Thursday as an upbeat profit forecast from United Parcel Service lifted transportation shares, but concerns about a rise in weekly jobless claims limited gains.

UPS late Wednesday posted a first-quarter profit that was sharply above consensus and raised its profit outlook, prompting at least two brokers to upgrade the package shipping company's stock.

The stock rose 6.2 percent to $69.52 while peer shipper FedEx Corp gained 2.6 percent to $96.44. The Dow Jones Transportation Average <.DJT> climbed 2.2 percent, hitting a fresh 52-week high in intraday trading.

New U.S. jobless claims unexpectedly soared last week due to applications delayed by the Easter holiday.

Earnings have shown that the economy is gaining momentum, but the bulls are taking a break today because of the data, said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Robert W. Baird & Co in Nashville.

Bittles added that while he considered the claims data a negative for the market, he didn't think they were part of a trend.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 15.72 points, or 0.14 percent, at 11,138.83. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 1.72 points, or 0.14 percent, at 1,212.37. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 10.63 points, or 0.42 percent, at 2,515.49.

Earlier, the S&P 500 touched an intraday high at 1,213.92, its highest in 19 months. The Dow also reached a 19-month intraday high at 11,144.95 earlier in the session.

Google Inc , due to report after the close, helped boost the Nasdaq, rising 1.4 percent to $597.01. Options investors expect the Internet search giant's shares to move higher after the results.

Its climb follows upbeat results from Intel Corp earlier this week. Intel rose 3.1 percent to $24.25 and was the Dow's top percentage gainer.

S&P 500 companies' quarterly earnings now forecast to rise 38.2 percent from a year ago, slightly better than the 36.6 percent increase forecast on April 1, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Worries that debt-plagued Greece was ready to use an emergency bailout package weighed on sentiment earlier in the day, but the S&P 500 remained well above the key 1,200 mark and the Dow above 11,000. The recent break above those levels was the first time since September 2008.

The next key resistance level is 1,214 on the S&P 500, just shy of the 61.8 Fibonnaci retracement from the all-time high reached in October 2007 to the multi-year low reached in March 2009.

In other data released on Thursday, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's business activity index rose slightly more than expected in April while the New York Federal Reserve's Empire State manufacturing index rose to a six-month high.

Analysts have been more optimistic about the U.S. stock market's performance for the year. On Thursday, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch raised its year-end target for the S&P 500 to 1,300 from 1,275.

(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jan Paschal)