US stocks sharply higher; Dow climbs 200+ points

U.S. stocks surged on Thursday, extending the prior day’s robust gains, as the price of oil steadied and on thinking the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank would buttress the global economy.

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.

“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.

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.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Global Indexes: .DJI) rose 221.24 points, or 1.3 percent, to 17,805.95, with all 30 of its components advancing. The S&P 500 (^GSPC) added 23.88 points, or 1.2 percent, to 2,049.78, with all 10 of its major industry groups rising. The Nasdaq (^IXIC) gained 53.05 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,703.52.

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.

Nasdaq Futures

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