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By Lucy Bayly

A rate hike is highly likely later this month, according to comments made by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen Friday afternoon.

In prepared remarks at the Executives Club of Chicago, Yellen pointed to economic improvement and the receding of global risks as key factors bolstering a further adjustment of the nation’s interest rate.

“We currently judge that it will be appropriate to gradually increase the federal funds rate if the economic data continue to come in about as we expect," Yellen said.

Markets barely moved on her comments, having already embraced a March rate hike as more of a foregone conclusion than a surprise. Stocks edged slightly lower while gold ticked upward.

"The market is giving the Fed the green light to raise," Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management, told CNBC.

Yellen also indicated a faster pace of rate hikes for 2017, saying that “Unless unanticipated developments adversely affect the economic outlook, the process of scaling back accommodation likely will not be as slow as it was during the past couple of years.”

The Federal Open Market Committee last hiked rates in December 2015, after slashing the rate to zero during the financial crisis in 2008. During the December policy meeting, Yellen said Americans should prepare for further hikes, predicting that the committee would raise rates "three or more" times in 2017.

The Dow Jones has seen 12 straight days of record highs amid a soaring rally focused on President Donald Trump’s promises of deregulation, tax reform, and infrastructure spending.