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Dow Soars More Than 400 Points as Oil Prices Fall

After scoring their best session of the year so far on Wednesday, U.S. stocks topped that on Thursday.

The Federal Reserve’s promise to be “patient” about boosting borrowing costs helped send U.S. stock markets soaring Thursday for a second day. The Dow closed up more than 400 points for a combined two-day total of more than 700 points — 4.2 percent.

It was the first 400-point gain for the Dow since November 2011 and the second consecutive day that stocks rose more than 1 percent. With the two days of gains, the stock markets have sliced their December losses, with the Dow and S&P 500 now down just 1 percent for the month.

The boom Thursday came even as oil prices resumed sliding. The price dropped $1.77, or 3.1 percent, to $54.70 after rising as high as $58.73 in morning trading. Oil has plunged since June, when it peaked at $107 a barrel. "The bottom line is that low oil is a net positive for the consumer," Karyn Cavanaugh, a senior market strategist at Voya Investment Management. "The consumer drives the U.S. economy, which drives the global economy, so that's good news."

Stock markets around the world rose overnight, spurred by gains in U.S. bourses on Wednesday, when Federal Reserve Board Chairman Janet Yellen and her colleagues soothed fears of an imminent rise in borrowing costs. In a statement released after a scheduled two-day meeting on the economy, the U.S. central bank said it would be “patient” about boosting rates and kept a reference in the statement to “considerable time,” referring to how long rates likely would remain near zero. Yellen told reporters in a post-statement news conference that the Fed probably would not start the process to hike rates for “at least the next couple of meetings” and that it would let economic data and not the calendar dictate the move.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 48.34 points, or 2.4 percent, to 2,061.23. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 421.28 points, or 2.43 percent, to 17,778.15. The Nasdaq composite rose 104.08 points, or 2.24 percent, to 4,748.40.

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— NBC News' Patrick Rizzo and Reuters