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Investors refrained from placing big bets on Monday ahead of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s first testimony before lawmakers. As a result, benchmarks closed almost at the same levels at which they opened the trading session. A lackluster quiet trading session saw hardly any action on the economic front. No major economic reports which could influence benchmarks were released.

For a look at the issues currently facing the markets, make sure to read today’s Ahead of Wall Street article
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) added a meager 0.1% to close at 15,801.79. The Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) was up 0.2% to finish at 1,799.84. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.5% to move up to 4,148.17. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) dropped 0.2% to settle hardly changed at 15.26. Total volume on the New York Stock Exchange was 3.31 billion. Advancers edged past the decliners on the NYSE; as for 57% stocks that moved up, 40% stocks closed lower.
There was not much move in the benchmarks on the opening day of the week, which had scored a rare weekly gain last week. Benchmarks have been mostly closing with weekly losses this year and S&P 500 had closed in the red for all last three weeks of January. The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq were up 0.6%, 0.8% and 0.5%, respectively, in last week. The weekly gains came on the back of benchmarks uptrend on Thursday and Friday. A drop in initial claims and encouraging results from Disney had helped benchmarks achieve their best single-day performance since Dec 18 on Thursday.
Coming back to yesterday’s events, investors waited to hear what Janet Yellen has to say before Congress on Tuesday. This is Yellen’s first testimony before the lawmakers since she became the head of the Federal Reserve. Yellen’s speech will be closely watched as recent economic data have not been very promising and foreign economic conditions too have been dismal. On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics had reported weaker-than-expected nonfarm payroll additions, though unemployment rate at 6.6% hit a post-recession low.
Moreover, Yellen’s speech comes after the central bank announced yet another taper last month. Markets were negatively impacted after The Federal Open Market Committee’s latest policy statement last month stated another $10 billion cut from its original $85 billion third quantitative easing plan. The decision came during what was former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s last-policy setting meeting. However, interest rates will continue to be low, but the central bank said it may continue with its tapering every month.
The healthcare sector was among the leading gainers yesterday. The Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV) added 0.8%. Key stocks from the sector such as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE:MRK), Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) and Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) gained 1.1%, 0.8%, 0.2%, 2.8% and 1.2%, respectively.
On the other hand, industrial sector featured in the bottom as Industrial Select Sector SPDR (XLI) lost 0.6%. Stocks such as General Electric Company (NYSE:GE), Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE:UNP), 3M Company (NYSE:MMM), Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE:HON) and Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) declined 0.6%, 1.2%, 0.5%, 0.3% and 0.4%, respectively.

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