* S&P, Dow hit fresh historic highs, gains prove fleeting
* Bernanke touts benefits of Fed easing
* Saks rallies on report it could sell itself
* Dow up 0.4 pct, S&P up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, May 22 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday, giving up some gains after an initial rally, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank needed to see further signs of traction in the economy before it tapered its economic stimulus efforts.
The S&P 500 hit yet another record high after Bernanke’s prepared speech to Congress offered no sign that he was ready to retreat from the Fed’s latest round of bond buying, which cooled investor speculation that the central bank was preparing to reduce its monetary stimulus.
The market had a hawkish bend ahead of Bernanke’s speech and cheered when the Fed chief’s comments appeared dovish, according to Art Hogan, managing director at Lazard Capital Markets in New York.
“His prepared comments were as dovish as the market was expecting,” Hogan said. “Then the market settled into the fact there was no new news.”
The Fed’s ultra loose monetary policy is one of the main forces behind a rally in U.S. equities that has helped the S&P 500 and Dow industrials gain about 18 percent so far this year.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 64.24 points or 0.42 percent, to 15,451.82, the S&P 500 gained 6.09 points or 0.36 percent, to 1,675.25 and the Nasdaq Composite added 7.93 points or 0.23 percent, to 3,510.06.
Adding to the bullish tone, data showed U.S. home resales rose in April to the highest in nearly 3-1/2 years as surging prices lured sellers back into market, which should support the housing sector and the overall economic recovery.
Health stocks led the S&P 500 higher with Pfizer shares up 3.4 percent to $29.77 after the giant drug maker said it would unwind its remaining stake in animal health business Zoetis.
Bristol-Myers Squibb jumped 6.2 percent to $46.79 after a Citi note highlighted excitement surrounding so-called immunotherapy, in the wake of positive results from clinical trials conducted by companies such as Bristol-Myers and Roche Holding ROG.VX.
Shares of luxury department store chain Saks Inc jumped 13.3 percent to $15.49 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 slid 3.7 percent to $68.61.
Toll Brothers shares rose 7.2 percent to $38.60 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.