By Scott Stoddard, Investor’s Business Daily

Stocks ended modestly higher Thursday despite little signs of progress in negotiations aimed at averting the fiscal cliff.

The Nasdaq rose 0.7%, the S&P 500 gained 0.4% and the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 0.3%. Volume rose 6% on the Nasdaq and 1% on the NYSE compared with Wednesday.

The major averages rebounded after wobbling earlier in the day following comments by House Speaker John Boehner, who said little progress had been made in negotiations to soften tax hikes and spending cuts due to take effect Jan. 1. Analysts warn that failure to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff could send the economy back into a recession.

Wall Street’s gains were broad-based. Gun maker Sturm Ruger (RGR) jumped 2% in strong volume to a new high. Gun sales are rising as the holiday season approaches and fears that President Obama’s re-election will mean tighter gun control laws.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation said Monday that criminal background checks required to buy a gun hit a single-day record of 154,873 on Black Friday. That was 20% higher than the previous high, set on Black Friday last year.

Sturm Ruger has risen for eight straight sessions and is 15% past a 52.13 buy point, putting it well out of buying range.

The gun maker’s profit growth has been robust, ranging from 33% to 88% the past six quarters. Sales growth has also been strong over that period.

Cosmetics retailer Ulta Beauty (ULTA) jumped after hours following a better-than-expected earnings report for its fiscal third quarter ended in October. The stock had fallen 1% during the regular session after hitting resistance at its 50-day line.

Meanwhile, Chinese online portal Qihoo 360 Technology (QIHU) jumped more than 5% in heavy turnover. The stock had pulled back to its 10-week moving average after clearing a 24.40 buy point, but it’s since jumped off the support line and is 3% above the entry.

Soufun Holdings (SFUN), another Chinese Internet stock, climbed 3% in double its average daily volume, closing just below an all-time high. The online provider of real estate listings is thinly traded. It’s risen for six straight sessions while rebounding off its 10-week line in mostly heavy volume.

On the downside, Yum Brands (YUM), the operator of Taco Bell and KFC, sank in after-hours trading following the company’s Q3 earnings report. Profit for the quarter rose 19% from a year ago, slightly higher than expected. But the company said same-store sales in China, where it earns more than 40% of its total revenue, had weakened.

3D Systems (DDD) came off a record high, falling more than 2% in active trade. The maker of machines that produce three-dimensional prototypes mainly for the auto, medical and aerospace industries is back above a 44.90 buy point after triggering the 8% sell rule.

United Natural Foods (UNFI), a distributor of organic groceries, and apparel retailer Genesco (GCO) are scheduled to report quarterly earnings Friday.

Economic data due Friday include personal income and spending for October and the Chicago purchasing managers index for November.