Stocks rallied Thursday, with the Dow Jones industrial average enjoying its largest one-day gain in three months, as a decrease in jobless claims and growth in service industries bolstered confidence in the economic recovery.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 191.40 points, or 1.59%, at 12,258.20, the largest one-day gain since its 249-point rise on Dec. 1. The S&P 500 rose 22.53, or 1.72%, closing at 1,330.97; and the Nasdaq composite was up 50.67 points, or 1.84%, to close at 2,798.74. All numbers are preliminary.
Oil slid 1% to $101.20 a barrel as Venezuela offered to mediate a resolution to the Libyan crisis.
The S&P 500 has risen 5.6% so far this year as government stimulus measures, improving profits and increased takeovers bolstered confidence in equities.
Earlier Thursday, equity-index futures extended gains before the open of exchanges as the Labor Department report said applications for unemployment benefits fell by 20,000 to 368,000 in the week ended Feb. 26. The total number of people receiving unemployment insurance fell to the lowest level since October 2008.
A separate report Thursday showed that the Institute for Supply Management's index of non-manufacturing businesses rose to 59.7, the highest level since August 2005, from 59.4 in January. Economists forecast the gauge would fall to 59.3, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. A reading above 50 signals growth.