NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks were climbing Thursday after the Federal Reserve assured markets it would be "patient" in determining when to raise rates.
The S&P 500 was up 1.3%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 1.3%, and the Nasdaq spiked 1.5%. 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 press conference on 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.
Weekly jobless claims backed up the Fed's positive assessment of the job market as the number of new filings for unemployment benefits 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.
The Philadelphia Fed reported a slower pace of manufacturing activity in December with a reading of 24.5 compared to 40.8 in November. Analysts had expected a reading of 25. The latest figures could give pause to a data-dependent Fed which has had to contend with a patchy economic recovery.
"While the Fed is more optimistic about achieving its employment goal, it continues to fret about the lack of progress on its inflation target (hence the need to 'monitor inflation developments closely')," Douglas Porter, chief economist for BMO Capital Markets, said in a report. "This means that, even if the unemployment rate falls as expected toward the presumed neutral range of 5.2% to 5.5% next year, the Fed could delay tightening if (core) inflation holds well below 2%."
Crude oil prices were bouncing on Thursday as futures traders grew more hopeful the commodity has found a bottom after weeks of deep losses. West Texas Intermediate crude added 0.27% to $56.62 a barrel.
"It's too soon to call for a bottom but certainly investors with a longer-term strategy are finding a lot of good bargains at this point," said Sterne Agee chief economist Lindsey Piegza over the phone.
Traders hope oil prices will stabilize as oil companies announced plans to limit investments in new production, moves that should pare global oversupply. Marathon Oil (MRO) and ConocoPhillips (COP) separately said they would slash 2015 capital expenditure by 20%, while Chevron (CVX) put plans to drill in the Canada's Beaufort Sea on hold indefinitely.
Sony (SNE) shares were up 3.6% 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 7.8% after beating second-quarter earnings estimates and posting a 3% gain in revenue. Rite Aid (RAD) climbed 14% as quarterly net income beat expectations and same-store sales in its third quarter spiked more than 5%.
American Express (AXP) had its stock initiated with a "hold" rating and $95 price target by Jefferies analysts. Shares rose 1.9%. LinkedIn (LNKD) climbed 4.2% as Wells Fargo initiated with an "outperform" rating on the view the professional networking site is a "pioneer" in the social media space.
Dunkin' Brands (DNKN) tumbled more than 8% as the company issued weaker-than-expected 2015 guidance, while Kraft Foods (KRFT) surged 5% after announcing it had appointed its Chairman John Cahill as its new CEO.
--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.