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The S&P 500 climbed to fresh highs as traders remained optimistic that the Federal Reserve will continue its aggressive easing program.
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As of 2:55 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 61.6 points, or 0.39%, to 15938, the S&P 500 advanced 4.1 points, or 0.23%, to 1795 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 8.1 points, or 0.2%, to 3981.
The Federal Reserve's $85-billion-a-month bond-buying program has been a significant positive stimulus for Wall Street. And Federal Reserve chair nominee Janet Yellen supported the view that it's not ending too soon in her confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Thursday.
"In [Yellen's] view, the costs of the Fed’s policy stance were manageable, and she insisted she would be vigilant in support of the Fed's goals of long-term price and financial stability," analysts at Barclays wrote to clients Friday, saying they expect the Fed to begin paring back its bond purchases in March.
"Her comments are likely to support the positive momentum in developed equity markets that built ahead of the testimony."
The view that she's likely to follow closely in current chair Ben Bernnake's footsteps was echoed by a slew of investment banks.
Traders also got two reports on the U.S. economy.
The New York Federal Reserve said manufacturing activity in the region contracted unexpectedly in November. The Empire State Manufacturing gauge fell in November to -2.21 from 1.52 in October, missing expectations it would rise to 5.
The Commerce Department reported U.S. import prices saw the biggest drop since April, falling 0.7% in October, while economists expected prices to fall just 0.4%. Export prices, meanwhile, fell 0.5%, while economists expected prices to instead rise 0.1%.
In corporate news, Jos. A Bank (NASDAQ:JOSB) said it would terminate its bid for Men's Wearhouse (NYSE:MW), sending share of the latter sliding. Eminence Capital, the biggest Men's Wearhouse shareholder, called for a special shareholder meeting.
In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures climbed 17 cents, or 0.18%, to $93.93 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.41% to $2.673 a gallon. Gold slipped $4.50, or 0.35%, to $1,282 a troy ounce.
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