U.S. stocks climbed strongly Thursday, led by big gains in energy companies as the prices of crude oil and natural gas recover from steep plunges the day before.

At the close on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was up nearly 116 points, about 0.7 percent, at 15,882.7. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 9.7 points, about 0.5 percent, to nearly 1,869. The Nasdaq composite less than a point to 4,472.1.

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ENERGY: Shortly after the markets closed, the price of benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was up $1.47, about 5.2 percent, at $29.82 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The February contract, which expired Wednesday, dived 6.7 percent, or $1.91, its worst daily drop since September, to close at $26.55 in New York. It was U.S. oil’s lowest since May 2003. In London, Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, climbed $1.76, about 6.3 percent, to $29.64 per barrel.

MORE STIMULUS? European Central Bank head Mario Draghi said Thursday the ECB will consider using more stimulus measures at its next meeting in March. At the ECB’s December meeting, the bank’s rate-setting council decided to extend its bond purchases by six months. The prospect of more stimulus sent the euro down to $1.0823 from $1.0894 late Wednesday.

CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF: Airlines rose as lower fuel costs boosted their profits. Southwest Airlines reported a record profit, almost triple its net income from a year ago, as fuel costs fell by almost a third. The airline said demand for travel is strong but fares are weaker. Its stock closed up 20 cents, about 0.5 percent, at $39.50.