U.S. stocks closed higher Thursday, stabilizing after a steep sell-off, helped by some recovery in oil prices and comments from Fed policymakers that indicated possibility of an even more gradual pace of tightening. ( Tweet This )
The major averages ended off session highs, but up more than 1 percent for the day for their best day since Dec. 4. The S&P 500 was on track to end the week unchanged but down nearly 6 percent for the year so far.
Also supporting gains was a 1.5 rise in shares of JPMorgan Chase after the banking giant reported net income of $5.4 billion, earnings per share of $1.32, on revenue of $23.7 billion, beating estimates.
"You got good news out of JPMorgan that set the tone for the day and reminds investors it's not the end of the world," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. He noted valuations are still on the high end.
The Nasdaq composite closed up 1.97 percent after earlier rising 2.5 percent but still more than recovering from a 1 percent intraday dip.
The S&P 500 closed up 1.67 percent, back above the psychologically key level of 1,900 as energy closed up nearly 4.5 percent to lead all sectors higher. Energy had its best day since Aug. 27, but is still more than 20 percent lower for the last 12 months.
U.S. crude oil futures settled at $31.20 a barrel, up 72 cents, or 2.36 percent.
There's an "ongoing bid in energy. That helps," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. He also attributed support for gains to extremely oversold conditions and more accommodative remarks from Federal Reserve policymakers.
St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said Thursday that a continued decline in inflation expectations may change his outlook for further Fed rate hikes. Bullard is a voting member of the central bank's policymaking committee.
The Fed's Bullard also said in his speech Thursday morning that the recent move in oil prices has been "very substantial" and has implications for monetary policy, although low oil prices are a "net positive" for the U.S. economy.
The comments followed remarks Wednesday from another voting member, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, that global and U.S. economic growth may be slipping and force a more gradual pace of tightening than officials currently expect.
"That's working its way into the marketplace today. ... Bullard's commentary is very constructive for the market," Hogan said.