NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Wednesday's rally in equities continued through to Thursday morning as stock futures soared after the Federal Reserve assured markets it would be "patient" in determining when to raise rates.
S&P 500 futures were up 1.06%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures surged 1.02%, and Nasdaq futures spiked 1.26%. A day earlier, the S&P and Dow posted their strongest percentage gains of the year.
"The committee considers it unlikely to begin the normalization process for at least the next couple of meetings," said Fed Chair Janet Yellen in a conference Wednesday. "This assessment, of course, is completely data-dependent."
This timeline is as expected, said Wells Fargo's Cameron Hinds. "Market consensus is that they will start to raise rates during the next summer," he said.
U.S. jobless claims slipped 6,000 to 289,000 for the week ended Dec. 12, the Labor Department said. Economists had expected 295,000 claims for unemployment benefits for the week.
Global markets followed the U.S. higher. Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 were up more than 2%, Japan's Nikkei popped 2.3% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.1%.
Crude oil prices were bouncing on Thursday morning as futures traders grew more hopeful the commodity has found a bottom after weeks of deep losses. West Texas Intermediate crude added 1.9% to $57.53 a barrel.
Sony (SNE) shares were up 3% in premarket trading after deciding to pull the release of The Interview, previously set to debut on Christmas Day. On Wednesday, major theater chains including AMC Entertainment (AMC) and Regal Entertainment (RGC) dropped plans to show the movie after threats from Sony hackers.
Oracle (ORCL) was up nearly 5% after beating second-quarter earnings estimates and posting a 3% gain in revenue.
Rite Aid (RAD) climbed 10.6% in premarket trading as quarterly net income beat expectations and same-store sales in its third quarter spiked more than 5%.
--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.