In prepared remarks in California, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said global headwinds have partly prevented the Fed from raising rates again.
San Francisco Fed President John Williams told CNBC that two to three rate hikes this year would be "reasonable."
On the data front, weekly jobless claims rose 17,000 to 274,000. Economists polled by Reuters expected the number to come in at 260,000. Also, layoffs by U.S.-based companies accelerated in April, sending year-to-date job cuts to the highest level since 2009, a private study reported Thursday.
Domestic companies announced plans to let go 65,141 workers last month, a 35 percent increase from March, according to the report by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Investors also kept an eye on oil prices. Brent crude traded at $44.96 a barrel, up 0.8 percent, while U.S. crude settled 54 cents, or 1.2 percent, higher at $44.32 a barrel. Oil traded higher earlier in the day but gave up some of its gains.
— CNBC's Tom DiChristopher and Reuters contributed to this report.