NEW YORK - Wall Street bounded higher for the second straight day Thursday as investors reveled in sharply falling oil prices and the pro-business agenda of the second Bush administration. The Dow Jones industrials gained more than 177 points for its best day of 2004, while the S&P 500 closed at its highest level since early 2002.
Oil prices tumbled below the $49 per barrel mark, giving investors hope that crude, which climbed steadily through October, could be stabilizing.
A barrel of light crude was quoted at $48.82, down $2.06, on the New York Mercantile Exchange - the lowest settlement price since Sept. 29.
"I think oil has a lot to do with it," said Michael Palazzi, the managing director of equity trading at SG Cowen Securities.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 177.71, or 1.75 percent, to 10,314.76, adding to a 101-point gain Wednesday.
It was the biggest one-day point gain for the Dow since Oct. 1, 2003, and its best close since Sept. 14.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 18.47, or 1.62 percent, at 1,161.67, its highest closing level since March 19, 2002. The Nasdaq composite index gained 19.30, or 0.96 percent, to 2,023.63, its highest close since June 30.
The Dow has posted gains in seven of the last eight sessions, climbing 5.79 percent since Oct. 25.
The Nasdaq has gained 5.73 percent, the S&P 500 has climbed 6.11 percent and both indexes enjoyed their eighth consecutive positive session.
Whether the rally will continue likely will depend on whether today's job creation report from the Labor Department shows strong employment gains.