U.S. stocks rose Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average leaping more than 150 points in early trading, after fewer than expected Americans filed for unemployment claims last week, setting the stage ahead of Friday’s highly anticipated monthly jobs report. Meanwhile, Dow component Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) helped boost the blue-chip index higher after shares of the pharmaceutical giant jumped 3 percent, to $33.13, following news of its acquisition of injectable drug provider Hospira, Inc. (NYSE:HSP) for more than $15 billion.

In morning trading Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which measures the share prices of 30 large industrial companies, jumped 159.01 points, or 0.90 percent, at 17,832.03; the S&P 500 stock index added 17.12 points, or 0.83 percent, at 2,058.28; and the Nasdaq Composite gained 31.90 points, or 0.68 percent, at 4,748.66.

Drugmaker Pfizer announced Thursday it will buy Lake Forest, Illinois-based Hospira Inc. for $15 billion to “expanded its portfolio of sterile injectable pharmaceuticals,” Pfizer said in a statement Thursday. The deal is the largest for Pfizer after an unsuccessful attempt to take over British multinational pharmaceutical and biologics company AstraZeneca Plc (NYSE:AZN) for $118 billion last year. Following the announcement, shares of Hospira skyrocketed more than 35 percent, to $87.51. 

Data Thursday showed initial claims for unemployment benefits rose 11,000, to 278,000, last week, the Labor Department said, coming in below economists’ estimates of 290,000, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were revised higher to 267,000 from an initial report of 265,000 for the week ended Jan. 24, which was the lowest since April 2000.

Oil prices edged higher Thursday after snapping a four-day rally during the previous session. West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, rose 1.24 percent Thursday, to $49.05 a barrel, for March 15 delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Meanwhile, Brent crude, the benchmark for global oil prices, added 1.77 percent Thursday, to $55.12 a barrel, for March 15 delivery on the London ICE Futures Exchange.

U.S. stocks closed mixed Wednesday after the European Central Bank announced it is blocking banks from using Greek debt as collateral beginning Feb. 11., boosting fears about the global economy. Traders shrugged off global concerns in premarket trading Thursday, however, following the stronger-than-expected jobless claims report.

After U.S. markets close Thursday, social networking giant Twitter Inc. (NYSE:TWTR) will post quarterly results along with professional networking site LinkedIn Corporation (NYSE:LNKD).

Ahead on the economic calendar Friday, economists will turn their attention toward the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for January. The report is expected to show U.S. employers added 235,000 jobs in January, down from 252,000 in December, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged from last month's reading of 5.6 percent.