NEW YORK (AP) — A collection of encouraging news on the global economy drove stocks higher for the second day in a row.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, showed signs of strength. U.S. exports rose to an all-time high as U.S. businesses sold more goods abroad. And a successful sale of Italian government bonds helped investors put aside fears of a deeper European debt crisis — at least for a day.

“European governments have a mountain of debt coming due early this year,” said John Canally, investment strategist at LPL Financial in Boston. “Some of what you’re seeing today in markets is a bit of relief that they’re working through it.”

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 146 points to 12,951, as of 12:30 p.m. Thursday. That’s a gain of 1.1 percent.

Hewlett-Packard rose 6 percent, leading the Dow, after a study found that shipments of personal computers unexpectedly rose at the start of the year.

Gartner Inc. found that Hewlett-Packard bolstered its position as the leader in PC shipments, claiming 17 percent of the world’s total during the first three months of the year. The research group said total PC shipments increased 1.9 percent in the quarter.

In other trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 14 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,383. The Nasdaq composite index gained 35 points to 3,051, or 1.1 percent.

Material companies rose 2.4 percent, the most of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500. Energy and industrial stocks were close behind, up nearly 2 percent.

There was encouraging news for investors from various parts of the world Thursday:

—China’s central bank reported a surprising jump in new loans. The loan figures for March eased concerns that China’s economic growth would come to a sudden halt.

— Italy’s long-term borrowing rates fell after the country easily sold $6.4 billion in new government debt. Major European stock indexes turned higher; Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 each rose 1 percent.

— The U.S. trade deficit shrank 12 percent in February to $46 billion, a four-month low. Exports rose to an all-time high as U.S. businesses sold more goods in Europe, China and other parts of the world. That shrinking trade deficit raised the possibility that economic growth was higher in the first quarter than previously expected.

U.S. stocks opened higher despite a rise in weekly unemployment claims. The Labor Department reported Thursday that applications for unemployment benefits jumped to 380,000 last week.

Avid Technology Inc. plunged 13 percent. The maker of equipment for recording music and video said it expects to post a loss in the first quarter, a result of weaker demand from amateur musicians and DJs.

McKesson Corp. rose 4 percent after reporting that the Department of Veteran Affairs agreed to keep McKesson as its main pharmaceutical supplier. The VA runs one of the country’s largest healthcare systems.

Google rose 1.3 percent ahead of its quarterly earnings report, set to be released following the closing bell. Analysts expect adjusted earnings of $9.66 per share on revenue of $8.09 billion, according to data from FactSet. Google posted a rare earnings miss in its last report.