S&P 500 rises to 5th quarterly gain as Fed signals support

U.S. stocks climbed, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index poised for a fifth quarterly gain, as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signaled continued monetary support and tensions appeared to ease in Ukraine. More

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S&P 500 rises to 5th quarterly gain as Fed signals support

Posted 3/31/14

NEW YORK – U.S. stocks climbed, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index poised for a fifth quarterly gain, as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signaled continued monetary support and tensions appeared to ease in Ukraine.

Biogen Idec Inc. advanced 3.8 percent after winning U.S. regulatory approval for a blood-disorder treatment. AT&T Inc. added 0.9 percent after approving a program to repurchase 300 million shares. General Motors Co. dropped 1.1 percent before its CEO testifies to Congress about the company’s vehicle recalls on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 gained 0.8 percent to 1,872.49 at 10:30 a.m. in New York, reversing a loss for March. A quarterly advance would give the gauge its longest streak since 2007. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 131.62 points, or 0.8 percent, to 16,454.68. The Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 1.1 percent, erasing its loss for the year.

“People thought the Fed was insinuating they were going to raise short-term interest rates sooner than anticipated,” Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at RW Baird & Co., said by telephone from Sarasota, Fla. His firm oversees $110 billion. “Yellen’s comments probably lay that to rest.”

The S&P 500 fell 0.5 percent last week, trimming its gain in 2014 to 0.5 percent, as investors sold the bull market’s biggest winners to lock in gains as they assess how much of the recent economic weakness is weather-related and if the situation in Ukraine will worsen.

Considerable slack

Yellen said Monday “considerable slack” in the labor market is evidence that the central bank’s unprecedented accommodation will still be needed for “some time” to put Americans back to work.

“This extraordinary commitment is still needed and will be for some time, and I believe that view is widely shared by my fellow policy makers at the Fed,” Yellen said.

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