US STOCKS-Wall St opens higher ahead of Bernanke

Wed May 22, 2013 9:40am EDT

* Saks rallies on report it could sell itself

* Bernanke seen hitting dovish note in testimony

* Dow, S&P, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, May 22 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher at the open on Wednesday, ahead of highly anticipated testimony in Congress by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on the economy and monetary policy.

Bernanke is expected to strike a dovish tone when he addresses a congressional committee at 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT). Earlier on Wednesday, influential New York Fed President William Dudley reinforced his own remarks from Tuesday, when he damped speculation that the U.S. central bank was preparing to reduce its monetary stimulus.

"A break from past statements, of course, will have a big impact on the market, but I think (Bernanke's speech) will be more of the same," said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The Fed's ultra loose monetary policy is one of the main forces behind a rally in U.S. equities that has taken the S&P 500 and Dow industrials to record highs. Dudley's remarks Tuesday boosted U.S. stocks in afternoon trading.

"We are at a point where there isn't really anything more the Fed could do for stocks," said Meckler, adding that market participants will be looking for clues on how the Fed plans to handle the eventual winding down of its stimulus program.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 22.29 points or 0.14 percent, to 15,409.87, the S&P 500 gained 2.31 points or 0.14 percent, to 1,671.47 and the Nasdaq Composite added 2.46 points or 0.07 percent, to 3,504.58.

Pfizer shares gained 3.2 percent to $29.71 after the giant drug maker said it would unwind its remaining stake in animal health business Zoetis.

Shares of luxury department store chain Saks Inc jumped 15.7 percent to $15.82 after the New York Post, citing a source briefed on the matter, reported that Saks had hired Goldman Sachs to explore strategic alternatives that included a possible sale.

Target Corp cited unseasonably cold weather as it reported a 0.6 percent decline in first-quarter sales at U.S. stores open at least a year. Target cut its full-year profit forecast and its shares fell 2.9 percent to $69.20.

Toll Brothers shares rose 6.6 percent to $38.39 after the largest U.S. luxury homebuilder posted a 46 percent rise in quarterly profit, suggesting the housing recovery is picking up pace across the industry.

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