Wall Street closes sharply higher

S&P 500 inks fresh record closing high as Yellen comments boost US stocks.

The S&P 500 has set a new record as buyers pushed US stocks higher, helped by a cautiously positive view of the economy from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 74.30 points, or 0.46%, to 16,272.71.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 9.15 points, or 0.50%, to 1,854.31, exceeding the record closing high of 1,848.38 set on January 15 this year.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq meanwhile hit its best level since the dot-com crash, finishing 26.87 points, or 0.63%, higher at 4,318.93.

Stocks were seen extending gains after congressional testimony from Ms Yellen, with the new Fed chair indicating the central bank would consider delaying its taper plans should economic data deteriorate further. The Fed will also maintain rates at current levels for an indefinite period.

The comments presented a contrast to those of Dallas Fed president Richard Fisher, who said he was open to a faster reduction in the pace of Fed bond purchases.

The latest economic data only served to further muddy the waters, with weekly jobless claims numbers rising quicker than expected by analysts. The news added to worries about the US labour market.

Meanwhile, durable goods orders fell for the second straight month, dipping 1% in January. However, orders lifted 1.1% after stripping out the volatile transportation category. The result was better than expected.

In company news, retailers Best Buy and Sears both climbed over 5% on sales numbers that topped forecasts.

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