Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp. on Thursday hit the highest level since June 2008. Other energy companies also rose in a broad market rally after a new plan was announced to help ease Europe's debt crisis and encouraging news about the U.S. economy arrived.
The European Central Bank said it will buy unlimited amounts of government bonds from struggling European countries. The goal is to ease the region's debt crisis and help protect the euro currency.
Investors have been anticipating new measures from the European bank since late July when its president, Mario Draghi, pledged to do "whatever it takes" to preserve the group of countries that use the euro currency.
U.S. stocks rose across a wide spectrum of industries, with the S&P 500 closing at its highest point since Jan. 2008 and the Nasdaq composite ending at the highest close in more than 11 years.
A report from the payroll processor ADP said U.S. businesses added 201,000 jobs in August. That's the highest number reported by the survey since March. The Labor Department also reported that the number of new applications for unemployment insurance fell last week. And the Institute for Supply Management said U.S. service companies expanded at a faster pace in August than they did in July as hiring improved.
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude rose 17 cents to finish at $95.53 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price has risen 23 percent since dropping to $77.69 per barrel in late June.
Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp. rose $1.66 to finish at $88.99, the highest close since June 9, 2008.
In other trading, shares of BP PLC gained 82 cents, or 2 percent, to $41.18. ConocoPhillips rose 92 cents to $55.79. Chevron Corp. rose $2.26, or 2 percent, to end at $113.03 and Occidental Petroleum Corp. ended up $2.19, or 2.7 percent, at $84.30.
Shares of Marathon Oil Corp. rose $1.10, or 4.1 percent, to end at $28.28. Baker Hughes Inc. was up 83 cents to $45.29. Transocean gained 32 cents to $46.92. Halliburton Co. rose 55 cents to $32.96 and Schlumberger Ltd. rose $1.21 to $72.46.