* Brent crude pares early gains to turn flat
* Initial claims point to strengthening labor market
* Oracle up after results
* Indexes up: Dow 1.7 pct, S&P 1.6 pct, Nasdaq 1.6 pct (Updates to midday)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Dec 18 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks climbed more than 1 percent on Thursday, extending a rally from the previous session as tech shares gained with upbeat results from Oracle.
The technology sector, up 2.2 percent, helped fuel the advance, buoyed by a gain of over 8 percent in Oracle Corp , a day after its quarterly results topped Wall Street expectations. Shares of Apple climbed 1.9 percent.
On Wednesday, the benchmark S&P 500 index had notched its best day since October 2013 after the Federal Reserve gave an upbeat assessment of the U.S. economy and said it would take a patient approach toward raising interest rates.
The S&P 500 had fallen nearly 5 percent from its most recent record high on Dec. 5 before the strong gains on Wednesday.
Oil prices were volatile, with Brent crude hitting a high of $63.70 and WTI crude reaching $58.73 before turning slightly lower. The S&P Energy sector was last up 1.4 percent.
“It appears investors have taken a stance to take advantage of the extended downside move of the market,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.
“All the money that has come out of oil needs to find a home. Money is systematically being forced into equities, for example, out of energy into technology.”
At 12:44 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average rose 285.96 points, or 1.65 percent, to 17,642.83, the S&P 500 gained 32.31 points, or 1.61 percent, to 2,045.2 and the Nasdaq Composite added 73.58 points, or 1.58 percent, to 4,717.89.
Earlier in the session, data showed weekly jobless claims fell more than expected, suggesting the labor market continued to strengthen. However, readings on the U.S. services sector and mid-Atlantic factory activity indicated a slower pace of growth.
Rite Aid shares surged 12.2 percent to $6.80 after the drugstore chain’s quarterly results topped expectations and it boosted its 2015 outlook.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE 2,467 to 592, for a 4.17-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,964 issues rose and 727 fell for a 2.70-to-1 ratio.
The benchmark S&P 500 was posting 54 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 117 new highs and 25 new lows. (Additional reporting by Charles Mikolajczak; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)