Tech shares scored the strongest gains. Yahoo jumped 7.2 percent and was among the Nasdaq's top gainers as investors were relieved that the world's largest Internet media company kept its outlook for the year and its earnings were in line with expectations.
A government report showed the core U.S. Consumer Price Index, a gauge of inflation at the retail level, rose in March at its fastest pace in a year. That undermined enthusiasm from Tuesday when minutes from the last Federal Reserve meeting boosted views that the Fed was close to ending its rate-raising campaign. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note climbed back above 5 percent on Wednesday.
The Fed's minutes on Tuesday helped give stocks their best day of gains in about a year.
"Right now, the mood is basically accentuating the positive and eliminating most of the negatives ... (It's) people assuming we're just about at the end of the rate-hike cycle," said Al Goldman, chief market strategist at A.G. Edwards, adding that expectations for first-quarter earnings remain strong.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 10.00 points, or 0.09 percent, to end at 11,278.77. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 2.28 points, or 0.17 percent, at 1,309.93. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 14.74 points, or 0.63 percent, at 2,370.88.
After the closing bell, shares of eBay Inc. (EBAY) fell 5 percent to $38.39 on the Inet electronic brokerage system after the Web auctioneer posted a drop in quarterly profit.
The stock ended the regular session at $40.35, up 3.8 percent, or $1.47, on Nasdaq, before the earnings report.
During regular trading, the solid earnings gave investors reason to believe that the U.S. economy is healthy and took the edge off some of the anxiety about core consumer price inflation.
Market breadth was overwhelmingly positive, with advancers outnumering decliners by a ratio of about 8 to 5 on the NYSE and by about 2 to 1 on the Nasdaq.
"Earnings are definitely coming in strong, and there's a lot out there with companies to be excited about," said Warren Simpson, managing director at Stephens Capital Management in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Yahoo shares rose $2.24 to $33.54 on Nasdaq. The Phildelphia Stock Exchange index of semiconductors gained 1.8 percent.
The Dow average got its biggest lift from industrial conglomerate United Technologies, which reported stronger-than-expected earnings and raised its full-year profit outlook.
United Technologies shares climbed 6.6 percent, or $3.90, to $62.80 on the New York Stock Exchange.
The biggest contributor to the S&P 500's gain was Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), up 1.2 percent, or 76 cents, at $64.30. Shares of other energy companies also climbed, with oil equipment and servicing company Schlumberger Ltd. up 5.1 perent at $67.75. It also helped buoy the S&P 500.
U.S. crude oil for May delivery hit a record high for the second day in a row — climbing to $72.40 a barrel on Wednesday after government data showed a surprising drop in U.S. crude inventories. NYMEX May crude rose 82 cents to settle at $72.17 a barrel.
The American Stock Exchange oil index hit another lifetime high at 1,165.25. The index was up nearly 1 percent.
San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President Janet Yellen, speaking on CNBC after midday, created some additional negative sentiment, expressing concern about the inflationary impact of high energy and commodity prices over the next few quarters.
Volume was heavy on the New York Stock Exchange, with about 1.75 billion shares changing hands, above last year's daily average of 1.61 billion. On Nasdaq, about 2.13 billion shares traded, above last year's daily average of 1.80 billion.