U.S. stocks skyrocketed Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbing more than 400 points, in what was the Dow's best one-day point gain since Nov. 30, 2011, and the best one-day gain for the S&P 500 of 2014. The Dow came within a mere 10 points of 18,000 on Dec. 5, a psychologically important milestone, and if the rally continues, is on track to break that level, possibly by the end of the year.

The Dow, which measures the share prices of 30 large industrial companies, soared 421.28 points, or 2.43 percent, to finish at 17,778.15; the S&P 500 stock index, which tracks the share prices of the nation's 500 largest publicly traded companies, climbed 48.34 points, or 2.40 percent, to end at 2,061.23. And the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 104.08 points, or 2.24 percent, to finish at 4,748.40.

U.S. stocks Thursday continued to ride gains from the previous session after the U.S. Federal Reserve replaced the phrase "considerable time" in its policy statement with "patient," signaling the central bank could raise interest rates sometime next year. The S&P 500 rallied over 2 percent, helped by gains in the technology sector, after software maker Oracle Corporation reported fiscal second-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street's estimates, sending shares up more than 10 percent to close at $45.35. 

After global oil prices fell to five-year lows earlier this week, crude prices rallied in early trading Thursday; however, oil prices reversed and continued to slide in afternoon trading. U.S. oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude fell 2.87 percent Thursday to $54.85 per barrel, for Jan. 15 delivery, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Meanwhile, global benchmark Brent crude declined 2.44 percent Thursday to $59.69 a barrel on the London ICE Futures Exchange.

Data Thursday showed business activity in the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s district hit its highest reading in nearly 21 years. The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, decreased 16 points, from a reading of 40.8 in November to 24.5 this month, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's monthly index showed Thursday. 

Separately, the Conference Board released its leading indicators report Thursday, its monthly index used to predict the direction of the economy's movements in the months to come. The index increased, signaling that moderate growth is likely to continue through the winter. The Conference Board Leading Economic Index rose 0.6 percent in November to 105.5, following a 0.6 percent increase in October. “The biggest challenge has been, and remains, more income growth. However, with labor market conditions tightening, we are seeing the first signs of wage growth starting to pick up,” Ken Goldstein, economist at the Conference Board, said in the report.

Additional data Thursday showed fewer Americans filed for jobless benefits last week as initial jobless claims for state benefits fell by 6,000 to 289,000, the lowest since early November, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Friday, there are no major data releases scheduled on the economic calendar, but economics will be watching for speeches from Chicago Federal reserve President Charles Evans at 10 a.m. EST, followed by Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker at 12:30 p.m.