US stocks edge higher ahead of Yellen testimony
NEW YORK—US stocks Wednesday finished with modest gains as investors looked ahead to Thursday’s congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 18.75 points (0.12 percent) to 16,198.41.
The broad-based S&P 500 finished flat, up 0.04 point at 1,845.16, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 4.48 (0.10 percent) at 4,292.06.
Analysts said investors were looking ahead to Yellen’s testimony at a Senate panel Thursday following a stream of mostly disappointing economic data that has been blamed in part on unusually cold weather.
The S&P 500 again flirted with a new peak, but failed to clinch a record.
“We’ve seen a very powerful rally for the S&P 500,” said David Levy, portfolio manager at Kenjol Capital Management. “What we’re waiting for is a catalyst to drive the market higher.”
Levy said the day’s data showing a big jump in new-home sales in January, while positive, was already “priced in” to stocks.
Retailer Target shot up 7.0 percent on fiscal fourth-quarter net earnings of $1.30 per share that came in at the high end of the company’s forecast range. However, profit fell 45.9 percent from a year ago and the company said 2014 earnings would be weighed down by costs relating to a giant data breach.
Strong earnings and an expanded share buyback program from home improvement chain Lowes pushed its shares up 5.4 percent.
EBay gained 2.1 percent as the online marketplace engaged in a fresh war of words with activist investor Carl Icahn following Icahn’s call two days ago for eBay to spin off its PayPal subsidiary.
First Solar tumbled 9.1 percent on a big earnings miss. Quarterly profits came in at 89 cents per share, 10 cents shy of expectations. Revenues also underperformed.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 2.67 percent from 2.70 percent late Tuesday, while the 30-year declined to 3.63 percent from 3.66 percent.