U.S. stocks closed higher Thursday, after a rebound in oil prices helped boost energy stocks, driving the S&P 500 index higher. Dow component General Electric Co. (NYSE:GE) was the biggest gainer in the blue-chip index, adding more than 2.8 percent to close at $25.73.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) gained 56.22 points, or 0.31 percent, to close at 17,958.73. The Standard & Poor's 500 (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) added 9.28 points, or 0.45 percent, to end at 2,091.18. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) rose 23.74 points, or 0.48 percent, to finish at 4,974.56. 

Oil closed higher Thursday, bouncing back from a more than 6 percent decline a day earlier, helping boost energy stocks. The S&P 500 energy sector gained 1.5 percent Thursday, with U.K.-based Ensco PLC (NYSE:ESV) adding more than 5.6 percent to end at $24.02. Cameron International Corp. (NYSE:CAM) and Halliburton Co. (NYSE:HAL) rose more than 4.8 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.

West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, added 0.73 percent to close at $50.79 a barrel, for May 15 delivery, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the benchmark for global oil prices, rose more than 2 percent to $56.68 a barrel, for May 15 delivery, on the London ICE Futures Exchange.

Separately, more Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, after claims had fallen to a 15-year low the previous week. Weekly applications rose 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 281,000 for the week ended April 4, the Labor Department said Thursday. However, the number was still less than economists' expectations for a rise of 17,000, to 285,000, last week, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. 

The Labor Department will release its import price index for March on Friday at 8:30 a.m. EDT, and Treasury will publish its monthly federal budget for March at 2 p.m. EDT.