Overall, the durable goods data were "far better than the headline decline suggests," said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics.
Investors were also encouraged by a successful auction of €6.5 billion in Italian government bonds. Wednesday's bond That helped push European markets higher. Italy has been a concern for investors since elections over the weekend raised concerns about the government's commitment to economic reforms.
Shares of Groupon plunged more than 20% after the online coupon site widely missed forecasts and said sales in the current quarter would fall short of estimates.
Investors were also keeping tabs on Apple's annual shareholders meeting.
Apple shareholders did not vote on a controversial proposal that would have limited the company's ability to issue preferred stock. Hedge fund manager David Einhorn, who had launched an activist campaign to unlock some of Apple's $137 billion cash hoard. Apple will put that to a vote at a later date.
Shares of Priceline rose after the online travel site beat profit forecasts.
First Solar shares sank after the renewable energy firm missed sales forecasts.
Shares of Dollar Tree jumped after the discount retailer said it earned $1.01 per share on sales of $2.25 billion in the fourth quarter.
Gun maker Sturm Ruger will report results after the closing bell, along with J.C. Penney, among others.
Asian markets ended mixed. Japan's Nikkei lost 1.3%, while the Shanghai Composite added 0.9% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng increased 0.2%.