Fed Optimism Lifts Stocks; S&P Logs New High


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The broad S&P 500 notched yet another fresh all-time high Thursday as dovish commentary from Fed chair nominee Janet Yellen whetted traders' buying appetites.

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Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 54.6 points, or 0.35%, to 15876, the S&P 500 advanced 8.6 points, or 0.48%, to 1791 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 7.2 points, or 0.18%, to 3972.

The S&P 500 logged a record high for the 35th time this year on the day. Since January, the broad-market barometer has surged close to 25% as the Federal Reserve has kept its foot firmly on the economy accelerator and the economy and business sectors have perked up.

Two pieces of economic data shed fresh light on the situation.

The Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit expanded in September to $41.78 billion from $38.7 billion the month prior. Economists were looking for the gap to widen to $39 billion.While international trade is a lagging indicator, it will figure directly into third-quarter gross domestic product estimates. In fact, Barclays cut its third-quarter GDP view by 0.2 percentage point to 2.6% on the back of the data.

The Labor Department reported number of people filing for first-time jobless benefits fell to 339,000 last week from an upwardly-revised 341,000 the week prior. Economists expected claims to rise to 339,000 from an initially-reported 336,000.The Fed has been paying close attention to data on the labor market as the central bank determines when it should begin paring back its $85-billion-dollar-a-month bond-buying program.

Also on that front, Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen, who is President Barack Obama's pick to take over the chairman role from Ben Bernanke, testified before the Senate.

In her wide-ranging remark, she said there isn't evidence investors are reaching for yield, which is to say they're not taking on excessively risky investments in the face of low interest rates. Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG, said that's an "important" development, because that would mean "there’s no need, right now, to worry about an aggressive unwind" of the central banks aggressive policies.

In corporate news, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) shares slumped after the world's biggest retailer posted quarterly sales that missed expectations. Still, per-share profits beat Wall Street's estimates.

In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures rose 2 cents, or 0.02%, to $93.90 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline soared 2.1% to $2.684 a gallon. Gold climbed $18.20, or 1.4%, to $1,287 a troy ounce.

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