US stocks rally as oil, central-bank support cited

U.S. stocks surged for a second day on Thursday, with the Dow turning higher for the year, as the price of oil steadied and on thinking the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank would buttress the global economy. The CBOE Volatility Index (^VIX), a measure of investor uncertainty, fell 12 percent to 17.09. Comments late Wednesday by Fed Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans helped the bullish slant, with Evans saying he did not believe the central bank should be in a rush to hike interest rates.

In a letter to European lawmakers, ECB President Mario Draghi said the ECB would reassess its monetary-policy stance early this year, and that ECB moves could include sovereign bond purchases, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

“Three things are driving the market significantly higher this morning as a follow on to yesterday’s strength,” Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities, said.

“First and foremost, continued stabilization in the energy market; number two, after the close, Fed President Charles Evans commenting that the Fed may not move until 2016 put a bid in futures last night and that that’s holding this morning, and third anticipation that the ECB will actually start outright quantitative easing at their meeting, which is later this month,” Hogan said.

Costco Wholesale (COST) climbed in early New York trading after the warehouse retailer reported a better-than-expected increase in same-store sales last month; Family Dollar Stores (FDO) fell after the discount retailer reported quarterly earnings short of estimates, and J.C. Penney (JCP) dropped after the retailer said it would close about 40 stores in the next year.

Read More Early movers: COST, FDO, GOOG, HLF, WDFC & more Data Thursday had jobless claims dropping by 4,000 to 294,000 last week, with the better-than-expected number coming a day before the payrolls report for December. Recouping a 461-point deficit tallied on Monday and Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Global Indexes: .DJI) rose as much as 306 points, and was lately up 301.46 points, or 1.7 percent, to 17,885.98, with all 30 of its components advancing. The S&P 500 (^GSPC) added 34.08 points, or 1.7 percent, to 2,059.98, with all 10 of its major industry groups rising. The Nasdaq (^IXIC) gained 83.12 points, or 1.8 percent, to 4,733.52.For every share falling, four rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where 271 million shares traded by 11:50 a.m. Eastern. Composite volume approached 1.5 billion.On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude-oil futures for February delivery (New York Mercantile Exchange: @CL15G) wavered, lately up 5 cents, or 0.1 percent, at $ 48.70 a barrel. Gold futures (CEC:Commodities Exchange Centre: @GC15G) added $ 2.60, or 0.2 percent, to $ 1,213.30 an ounce. The U.S. dollar (Exchange:.DXY) rose against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners and the 10-year Treasury note (U.S.:US10Y) yield used to figure mortgage rates and other consumer loans rose 4 basis points to 2.0137 percent. On Wednesday, U.S. stocks jumped, with the S&P 500 rebounding from a five-session dive, as U.S. crude stopped a four-day skid, concerns eased about a Greek exit from the European Union and investors offered a favorable reaction to minutes from the Federal Reserve. Read More Best day for stocks in three weeks; oil halts slide Coming Up This Week: Thursday 3 p.m.: Consumer credit for November Friday 8:30 a.m.: Nonfarm payrolls for December 8:30 a.m.: Unemployment rate 10 a.m.: Wholesale inventories for November More From CNBC.com: Market could still fail the ‘first-five-day test’ Soros: Europe must bail out Ukraine to beat Putin Arctic blast: Here’s how c-c-c-c-c-cold it is

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