Investors apparently were encouraged by reports that a major bank and a computer chip maker are doing better than analysts expected. They also cheered a government report showing that retail sales rose, at least outside the volatile transportation sector.
U.S. President Barack Obama said that even though times are difficult, the economy is moving in the "right direction."
But the U.S. central bank published a mixed assessment of the U.S. economy. Federal Reserve officials said economic activity is picking up, job losses are easing, manufacturing is improving and the housing market is recovering gradually. But the Fed said the still-weak job market is slowing recovery and the improved manufacturing data still leaves the sector at a low level.
The contradictions sparked debate among Fed officials about how to manage the fragile economic recovery. The discussion centered on whether to expand or cut efforts to prop up the housing market and drive down mortgage interest rates.
The information was published in notes from the most recent meeting of the Federal Reserve, as officials considered interest rate policy and other issues. The report was released with the customary three-week delay.
Some top government regulators are voicing concerns about the U.S. economic recovery.
The chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) told lawmakers Wednesday that many banks still could suffer as a result of bad real estate loans.
Bad loans and other problems already have led to almost 100 bank failures so far this year, and officials say hundreds of the country's 8,200 banks are in financial trouble.
One major bank is reported a growing number of customers failed to pay back credit card loans on time. JPMorgan Chase said its credit card division lost $700 million in the third quarter of this year,