* S&P 500 on pace for best three-day run since January
* Market lauds remarks by Fed's Dudley
* ConAgra jumps after raising its outlook, PayChex drops
* Indexes up: Dow 0.9 pct, S&P 0.9 pct, Nasdaq 1 pct
By Alison Griswold
NEW YORK, June 27 U.S. stocks rose for a third
straight day on Thursday as comments from several Federal
Reserve officials eased fears that the central bank would begin
to reduce its stimulus efforts in the near future.
The S&P 500 was on track for its best three-day run since
January, bolstered by economic data showing a decline in weekly
jobless claims and improvements in consumer spending and income.
While the S&P remains more than 3 percent below its all-time
closing high of 1669.16 reached on May 21, it has rallied 2.7
percent over the past three sessions.
"The market continues to be trader-directed and it is
completely based on sentiment -- how do traders feel today,
tomorrow," said Michael James, managing director of equity
trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.
Stocks have been volatile since Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke
said last week the central bank could begin to reduce its $85
billion in monthly bond purchases later this year and end the
program altogether by mid-2014 if economic conditions improve.
Wall Street has been closely tied to the direction of the
Fed's stimulus program, which is credited with fueling the stock
market's 13-percent jump in 2013, and uncertainty over the
timing of a pullback caused the market to dip 4.8 percent in the
days following Bernanke's remarks.
"We're in the midst of a one-way market," James said. "When
things are bad, the market's going down and buyers are moving to
the sidelines. When things are good, the market's going up and
sellers are moving to the sidelines."
William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New
York, said the Fed's asset purchases would be more aggressive
than the timeline Bernanke had outlined if U.S. economic growth
and the labor market prove weaker than expected.
Dudley stressed that slowing the pace of the Fed's bond
buying would depend not on calendar dates but on the economic
outlook, which remained unclear.
Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart
echoed Dudley's comments, saying the pace of the Fed's purchases
remained contingent on evolving economic conditions.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 138.55 points
or 0.93 percent, to 15,048.69, the S&P 500 gained 14.31
points or 0.89 percent, to 1,617.57 and the Nasdaq Composite
added 33.57 points or 0.99 percent, to 3,409.8.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped
slightly less than expected in the latest week, to a seasonally
adjusted 346,000. Analysts were looking for initial claims of
A separate report showed consumer spending rose 0.3 percent
last month while incomes grew 0.5 percent, the largest gain
since February. Pending home sales rose 6.7 percent to their
highest since December 2006.
In corporate news, ConAgra Foods Inc rose 5.5
percent to $35.20 as the third-best performer on the S&P 500
after the food manufacturer reported a quarterly profit slightly
above Wall Street's estimates and raised its long-term outlook.
Time Warner Cable was the S&P 500's best
performer, rising 8.1 percent before trimming the advance to 5.6
percent equal to $109.41
Gold miner stocks advanced as prices of the precious metal
edged higher following a 12 percent drop over the past eight
sessions. U.S.-listed shares of Barrick Gold advanced
0.6 percent to $14.87 and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold
added 1.3 percent to $27.21. The NYSE Gold Bugs Index
climbed 0.6 percent to $208.13.
On the downside, PayChex was the S&P 500's biggest
percentage decliner after reporting results, losing 4.6 percent