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Wall Street near all-time highs on Bernanke remarks, upbeat U.S. data


08:47, February 28, 2013

NEW YORK, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. stocks continued to rally on Wednesday, boosted by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's defense of the central bank's quantitative easing policy before Congress and better-than-expected pending home sales, although the so-called sequester nears.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 175.24 points, or 1.26 percent, to 14,075.37. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock Index surged 19.05 points, or 1.27 percent, to 1,515.99. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 32.61 points, or 1.04 percent, to 3,162.26.

At Wednesday's close, the Dow and S&P 500 were just 0.63 percent and 3.14 percent below their historical highs set in October 2007, respectively.

Bernanke reaffirmed on Wednesday in his Capitol Hill testimony that the Fed's massive bond-purchasing programs were needed to boost a still-weak economy, and have helped create jobs for average Americans.

The equity market has benefited a lot from the ultra-low interest rates that the Fed has maintained to spur the sluggish economy and improve hiring since the onset of the financial crisis.

The market was also bolstered on Wednesday by strong U.S. pending home sales. The forward-looking indicator based on contract signings increased 4.5 percent to 105.9 in January, the highest level since April 2010, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

"Favorable affordability conditions and job growth have unleashed a pent-up demand," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, adding that inventory was the key to this year's housing market.

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