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U.S. stocks booked another sharp gain on Thursday, extending a rally that kicked off in earnest on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve offered no surprises, signaling that it is on track to start scaling back bond purchases this year, and perhaps raise interest rates next year, assuming a continued economic recovery from the pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.48% registered a 1.5% gain, or about 506 points, on Thursday to close at around 34,764, representing its best daily gain since July 20 and marking the first back-to-back gains of at least 1%, or 338 points, for the blue-chip index since May 14, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

The S&P 500 index SPX, +1.21% rose 1.2% on the session, marking its best day since July 20 and its sharpest two-day advance since March 8, after a roughly 1% gain on Wednesday.

The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +1.04% also notched a successive 1% advance to close around 15,052. It was the third straight gain for the technology-laden index, representing its longest string of gains since the four-session streak ended Sept. 7.

Meanwhile, investors were awaiting a quarterly update from Nike Inc NKE, +1.36%.

In U.S. economic data Thursday, the Labor Department said initial claims for jobless benefits rose by 16,000 to 351,000 in the week ended Sept. 18. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had estimated new claims would total 320,000. The rise appeared to be driven in party by California catching up on a large backlog of claims.

Private-sector activity in the U.S. economy continued to expand but at a slower pace September, according to the IHS Markit flash U.S. Composite Output Index, which fell to a 12-month low of 54.5, down from 55.4 in August. A reading above 50 indicates an expansion in activity.

The Conference Board said its Leading Economic Index rose 0.9% in August to 117.1.