The gains came despite a spate of weak reports on manufacturing activity. The Markit Final Eurozone Manufacturing PMI fell to 44 in July, a more than three-year low but roughly in line with forecasts. Manufacturing activity in the United Kingdom and Italy also slowed in July.
Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite rose 0.9% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong edged higher 0.1%, while Japan's Nikkei lost 0.6%.
There were conflicting signals about manufacturing activity in China in July. HSBC's PMI for the month came in at 49.3, up from 48.2 in June. While the slowdown in activity eased a bit, a reading below 50 still indicates a contraction.
However, figures from the government showed that manufacturing in China expanded slightly during the month, but slowed from June. The China Federation of Logistics and Purchases's PMI came in at 50.1 in July, down from 50.2.
Economy: U.S. private-sector employers added 163,000 jobs in July, according to a report from payroll-processor ADP. Economists had expected an addition of 125,000 jobs.
The Institute for Supply Management said its Manufacturing Index edged higher in July to 49.8 from 49.7 in June. Economists expected the index to come in at 50.1, according to Briefing.com.
The Census Bureau said construction spending rose 0.4% in June, compared with a forecasted 0.5% increase.
Companies: Shares of Apple have gained 4% this week amid speculation about a possible stock split and potential for its inclusion in the Dow.
Shares of Time Warner dipped after the media giant reported reduced second-quarter revenue and earnings Wednesday despite improved results at its television networks unit. (CNNMoney is owned by Time Warner.)
Comcast reported better-than-expected earnings and sales figures for the second quarter, as the company added new customers for its Internet and phone services.
Shares of Avon Products fell after the company's second-quarter profit dropped 70% from a year ago and sales fell 9%, coming in below expectations.
Pharmaceutical company Allergan said earnings rose 21% in the second quarter from a year ago. It also announced plans to pay a quarterly dividend of 5 cents per share.
Harley Davidson shares sank after the motorcycle maker reported sales growth that disappointed investors, even as profits rose.
Currencies and commodities: The dollar fell against the euro and Japanese yen, but gained ground versus the British pound.
Oil for September delivery rose 79 cents to $88.85 a barrel.
Gold futures for August delivery fell $6.80 to settle at $1,60.3.70 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury fell, pushing the yield up to 1.49% from 1.43% late Tuesday..