After a rocky start to the week, U.S. stocks roared back Thursday, giving major stock indexes their biggest gain of the year.
The Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 index each closed up 1.2 percent, their largest single-day increase since Dec. 18.
The rally helped the market rebound a day after a modest loss and continued a gradual comeback since a plunge of more than 2 percent Monday.
“The market was very oversold going into the day’s trading,” said Jim Russell, senior equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 188.30 points, or 1.2 percent, to close at 15,628.53. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 21.79 points, also 1.2 percent, to 1,773.43. Both indexes were still down about half a percent for the week following a steep drop Monday.
The Nasdaq composite gained 45 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,057.12.
Thursday’s surge began overseas, where the European Central Bank decided not to cut interest rates. The move propelled major European stock indexes sharply higher.
Then the markets got a dose of good news on the U.S. job market.
The Labor Department reported that fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week.
That report, combined with a private survey on U.S. hiring released Wednesday, appeared to bolster investors’ confidence that the government will issue a positive January jobs report today.
“Those two numbers combined ... suggest that perhaps tomorrow’s numbers might look a little stronger,” Russell said.
Stock buyers got going early, reacting to better-than-expected earnings late Wednesday from The Walt Disney Co. The media giant got a lift from its movie hit “Frozen” and sales of the “Disney Infinity” video game. The stock rose $3.80, or 5.3 percent, to $75.56.
Akamai Technologies led the gainers in the S&P 500 index after the online content delivery company allayed fears that it had lost Apple as a customer.
Akamai soared $9.76, or 20.6 percent, to $57.18.
Among the other big risers were construction industry supplier Vulcan Materials, which added $5.47, or 9.1 percent, to $65.66, and O’Reilly Automotive, which rose $12.16, or 9 percent, to $146.72.
Investors also cheered Dunkin’ Brands Group, which reported that more people visited stores owned by the chain restaurant in the last quarter and spent more there once they got inside. The stock added $1.59, or 3.4 percent, to $48.89.
Twitter’s first earnings report since becoming a public company stirred concerns that growth is slowing at the online messaging service. The stock lost $15.94, or 24.2 percent, to $50.03.
A couple of energy companies were among the biggest decliners in the S&P 500.
Chesapeake Energy skidded after the oil and gas company gave its outlook for production and spending in 2014. The company lost $1.80, or 6.9 percent, to $24.41.
Petroleum refiner Tesoro shed $2.35, or 4.7 percent, to $47.60.
Investors had moved money into bonds in recent weeks on concern that U.S. growth is slowing. That trend began a gradual reversal Thursday.