US STOCKS-Bernanke comments spur Wall Street to strong open

Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:07am EDT

* Costco June sales top expectations

* Initial claims rise more than expected

* Bernanke comments cool stimulus-slowing ideas

* Indexes up: Dow 0.99 pct, S&P 1.1 pct, Nasdaq 1.13 pct

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, July 11 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks jumped on Thursday, with each of the major indexes gaining 1 percent, after comments by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke indicated the central bank was unlikely to scale back its stimulus measures earlier than expected.

Bernanke, at an economic conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Wednesday, said a highly accommodative monetary policy was needed for the foreseeable future, and that the U.S. unemployment rate of 7.6 percent overstated the health of the job market.

"His statement that they will be highly accommodative for the foreseeable future is pretty clear and the market loved it," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING U.S. Investment Management in New York.

"That statement was very clear and that is what the market is reacting to, because he is in charge."

The Fed chairman's comments on May 22 had first raised the prospect of an earlier-than-expected move by the central bank to scale back its bond buying program, triggering a drop in the S&P 500 of as much as 5.8 percent by June 24 from an all-time high of 1,687.18.

Bernanke's latest remarks sent the dollar lower and boosted commodities such as gold and copper.

U.S.-listed shares of Barrick Gold climbed 6.4 percent to $14.90 while Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold gained 4.1 percent to $28.40.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 152.05 points, or 0.99 percent, to 15,443.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index climbed 18.21 points, or 1.10 percent, to 1,670.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 39.92 points, or 1.13 percent, to 3,560.68.

The benchmark S&P 500 had risen 2.4 percent over the prior five sessions, its longest winning streak since early March, on optimism over improving economic data and anticipation of a better-than-expected earnings season.

Economic data showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased by 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, above expectations calling for 240,000 new filings.

Export prices fell by 0.1 percent, matching the expectation in a Reuters poll, while import prices slipped 0.2 percent last month versus expectations calling for unchanged import prices, signaling global economic growth may be cooling.

Celgene Corp, up 8.4 percent to $135.56, was the top boost to both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 after the company said a late-stage trial of its cancer drug Revlimid met the main goal of improving survival in newly diagnosed blood cancer patients.

Microsoft Corp rose 1.3 percent to $35.14 after the company announced a reorganization it said will allow the software maker to deliver multiple devices and services as a single company.

Sales at U.S. retailers, including Costco Wholesale Corp , and L Brands Inc, the company that runs Victoria's Secret, suggest that overall U.S. consumer spending is improving while discretionary spending may remain under pressure.

Costco shares gained 1 percent to $114.81 while the S&P retail index advanced 0.7 percent. LTD was up 2 percent at $51.60.

Analysts expect S&P 500 companies' second-quarter earnings to have grown 2.5 percent from a year ago, with revenue up 1.5 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc jumped 5.3 percent to $4.19, after Bank of America Merrill Lynch upgraded it to "buy" from "underperform." The PHLX semiconductor index rose 1.5 percent.

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.