NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Benchmark indexes were hovering at session highs with high-momentum tech stocks leading gains. The Federal Reserve kicked off a marketwide rally on Wednesday after it assured markets it would be "patient" in determining when to raise rates.
The S&P 500 was up 1.8%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 300 points, and the Nasdaq spiked 1.9%. A day earlier, the S&P and Dow posted their strongest percentage gains of the year.
Tech giants such as Apple (AAPL) , Tesla (TSLA) and Facebook (FB) moved significantly higher, while the Technology SPDR ETF (XLK) surged 2.2%. Oracle (ORCL) was pulling enterprise software developers higher following a better-than-expected second quarter. Microsoft (MSFT) , Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Intel (INTC) jumped.
The Fed's pledge for patience in raising rates on Wednesday infused markets with new vigor on Thursday. Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank would likely not increase rates for at least the next couple of meetings.
"It's really reconfirmation that they plan on starting to raise rates midway through next year... barring some big setback in either the labor market or the economy," said Chris Gaffney, senior market strategist at EverBank, in a call.
BMO Capital Markets chief economist Douglas Porter believes the timetable could be pushed out even further if inflation continues to gap from the Fed's target. "[The Fed] continues to fret about the lack of progress on its inflation target (hence the need to 'monitor inflation developments closely')," he 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%."
A bounce in crude oil prices had evaporated by the afternoon with fear resurfacing that the commodity had not yet found a bottom after weeks of steep losses. West Texas Intermediate crude slid 2.2% to $55.22 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.
Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, said Thursday that OPEC could not cut output and remedy the commodity slump alone lest it risk losing market share. The Saudi official said OPEC had called upon non-OPEC oil producers to restrict supply last month but that "those efforts were not successful."
Traders had hoped 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 3.3% 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.
Rite Aid (RAD) climbed 11% 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 2.3%. LinkedIn (LNKD) climbed 5.3% 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 5.6% after announcing it had appointed its Chairman John Cahill as its new CEO.
--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.