The Dow and S&P 500 finished Thursday’s trading on new highs following Janet Yellen’s comments during her Senate confirmation hearing. Yellen suggested that the Federal Reserve’s soft monetary policy could continue until the economy shows signs of significant strength. A couple of economic reports were released yesterday. Initial claims slipped, declining for the fifth time in a row. Among the S&P 500 industry groups, financial stocks gained the most. Technology stocks were the only sector to end in the red.
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 0.4% to close the day at 15,876.22. The S&P 500 increased 0.5% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,790.62. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 0.2% to end at 3,972.74. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined 1.2% to settle at 12.37. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange were 3.14 billion shares. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners. For 63% shares that advanced, only 33% declined.
Much of the day’s gains were a result of comments from Federal Reserve Chairman nominee Janet Yellen. Speaking before the Senate Banking Committee, Yellen said monthly bond purchases amounting to $85 billion “cannot continue forever.” However, she indicated that the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy would remain unchanged for the present since the economy remained vulnerable.
Market watchers are of the opinion that tapering of bond purchases may not begin in December as was earlier expected. Both the S&P 500 and the Dow have gained appreciably over the year on the back of the Fed’s monetary stimulus. The S&P 500 has gained nearly 25% and the Dow has increased 21% during the period. Interest rates have remained low and investor sentiment has been high for the better part of the year.
“I believe that supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy,” said Yellen. "I consider it imperative that we do what we can to promote a strong recovery," said Yellen, replying to a question during her hearing before the Senate Banking Committee. She added: "It's important not to remove support, especially when the recovery is fragile and tools available to monetary policy, should the economy falter, are limited given that short-term interest rates are at zero".
Shares of Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) dropped nearly 13% on Thursday, after the company forecasted a sharp drop in revenues for the current quarter, between 8% and 10 %, compared to a year ago. The company reported revenues of $12.1 billion, falling short of its own forecast. These developments pulled down the technology group of the S&P 500, which fell 0.4%.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) bounced back after earlier losses, increasing 0.2% to close at $79.08. Shares of the company had declined earlier after the company reported lower-than-expected quarterly sales. Wal-Mart said comparable sales at its U.S. stores dropped 0.3 % in the third quarter due to reduced prices of televisions, toys and packaged foods.
Coming to government data, the U.S. Department of Labor released initial jobless claims numbers. According to the report, initial claims dropped 2,000 to 339,000 from the prior week’s revised figure of 341,000. This was considerably above the consensus estimate of 331,000. The four-week moving average was 2,866,250, a decline of 2,000 from the preceding week's revised average of 2,868,250.
Additionally, the Department of Commerce released trade data for the month of September. Exports came in at $188.9 billion while imports stood at $230.7 billion. This resulted in a goods and services deficit amounting to $41.8 billion, up from $38.7 billion, the revised figure for August. Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased by 1.9% during the third quarter of 2013, higher than the consensus estimate of 1.8%.
The financial sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups and the financial sector SPDR (XLF) gained 0.9%. Stocks such as Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC), Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.B), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC), and Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) added 0.8%, 0.8%, 0.5%, 1.1%0.4%, respectively.
The technology sector was the only losing sector among the S&P 500 industry groups and the technology sector SPDR (XLK) declined 0.3%. Shares such as Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), Oracle Corporation (NYSE:ORCL), and Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) declined 0.4%, 0.7%, 1.8%, and 0.9% respectively.