Investors betting on a big gain in U.S. payrolls pushed Wall Street to its best one-day rally in three months on Thursday, but weak volume lingers as a concern for those hoping for another leg higher.

As oil paused from its recent climb, the market's focus shifted to stronger-than-expected economic data a day before the February U.S. employment report.

The median estimate is for a gain of 185,000, according to economists polled by Reuters, but market sentiment was leaning in the direction of a number higher than 200,000, traders said.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 191.55 points, or 1.59 percent, to 12,258.35. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 22.52 points, or 1.72 percent, to 1,330.96. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> gained 50.67 points, or 1.84 percent, to 2,798.74.