Stocks rose on Thursday, putting the S&P 500 on the cusp of finishing out the year higher after another decline in jobless claims pointed to further improvement in the economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> added 61.84 points, or 0.51 percent, to 12,169.58. The S&P 500 Index <.INX> gained 10.29 points, or 0.83 percent, to 1,254.01. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> rose 21.48 points, or 0.83 percent, to 2,599.45.

(Editing by Leslie Adler)