Stocks Close Higher after Yellen Says Fed Policy is Appropriate

Stocks rose on Thursday, with the S&P 500 marking a record high close, after Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen said the central bank would probably continue tapering its asset purchases while tracking data to figure how much recent softness in the economy is due to the weather.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished unofficially 74 points higher, with the S&P 500 gaining 9.13 points to close at a new high of 1,854.29. The Nasdaq gained 26 points.

Earlier, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000 last week. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said orders for durable goods, such as toasters and refrigerators, rose 1.1 percent in January.

But in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Yellen said winter weather may have had an impact on recent economic data and she reiterated her stance that accomodative monetary policy should remain appropriate for some time. The Fed's policy of monthly bond purchases has buoyed markets recently.

The dollar was lower against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell 3 basis points to 2.643 percent.

Gold futures for April delivery gained $3.80, or 0.3 percent, to $1,331.80 an ounce; crude-oil futures for April delivery fell 19 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $102.40 a barrel.