Wall Street was led higher by Apple and energy stocks, ahead of the release of the minutes of the Federal Reserve's October meeting which are likely to underpin expectations of an interest rate increase next month.
Apple's shares were up 3.2 % at $117.31 after Goldman Sachs added the iPhone maker to its "conviction buy" list, saying it sees potential for the stock gaining as much as 43 % from current levels.
The stock provided the biggest boost to the three major indexes, accounting for nearly a fifth of the Dow's gains.
Investors, however, remained cautious due to heightened security concerns after last week's deadly attacks in Paris.
"All eyes are on the Fed, while geopolitical concerns remains on the minds of the investors," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York.
"These external factors are going to keep the market on the edge, in spite of what the Fed may or may not indicate."
The minutes of the Fed's meeting, due at 2:00 p.m. ET (1900 GMT), will give investors clues on the central bank's reading of the economy.
The Fed is widely expected to raise interest rates at its December meeting as data pointed to a recovery in the U.S. labor market and a modest rise in inflation last month.
Data on Wednesday showed U.S. housing starts fell to a seven-month low, but a surge in building permits suggested the housing market remained on solid ground.
At 9:35 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 86.25 points, or 0.49 %, at 17,575.75, the S&P 500 was up 10.26 points, or 0.5 %, at 2,060.7 and the Nasdaq Composite index was up 22.89 points, or 0.46 %, at 5,008.91.
All 10 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 1.55 % rise in the energy sector.
Crude prices were up more than 1 % as data showed inventories were falling in the United States. Exxon rose 0.8 % and Chevron nearly 2 %.
Target fell 4.5 % to $69.62, despite raising its full-year profit forecast.
Lowe's was up 1.6 % at $73.89 after its quarterly earnings beat expectations.
Fairchild Semiconductor jumped 8.8 % to $19.45 after On Semiconductor said it would buy the company for $2.4 billion. On Semiconductor fell 6 % to $10.
Citrix Systems fell 3.6 % to $75.60 after the cloud computing software maker said it would spin off its GoTo business and cut 10 % of its workforce.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,984 to 660. On the Nasdaq, 1,435 issues rose and 694 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed three new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 12 new highs and 27 new lows.