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Overnight Markets: US stocks gain on Yellen's statement

The S&P 500 Index registered its fifth quarterly gain after Fed Chair Janet Yellen relieved concerns about a rate increase coming earlier than expected and tensions appeared to ease in Ukraine.

Overnight Markets: US stocks gain on Yellen's statement

Wall Street rose on Monday, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index posting a fifth quarterly gain, after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen relieved concerns about a rate increase coming earlier than expected and tensions appeared to ease in Ukraine.

The Dow Jones industrial average surged 135 points, or 0.82%, to end at 16,458. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 15 points, or 0.79%, to close at 1,872. The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 43 points, or 1.04%, to finish at 4,199.

This was the fifth consecutive quarterly rise for both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, though it was the smallest three-month advance for both since the fourth quarter of 2012.

Yellen said yesterday ‘‘considerable slack’’ in the labour market is evidence that the central bank’s unprecedented accommodation will still be needed for “some time” to put Americans back to work.

Equities also received a boost from end-of-quarter "window dressing," when money managers adjust positions to improve the look of their portfolios.

Economic data showed, the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago Inc.’s business barometer fell to 55.9 from 59.8 in February. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected a drop to 59.5.

Meanwhile, Russia and the US agree on the need for a diplomatic solution to tensions over Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Materials and utility sector gained the most. Technology and financial shares also outperformed for the day. However, biotech stocks stayed in focus following recent volatility when investors sharply took profits in the high-flying sector.

Micron Tech (MU.O) climbed 8%, ranking as the S&P 500's top percentage gainer. Oracle Corp (ORCL.N) rose 3.4%. Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX.O) climbed 4.3% and Biogen Idec (BIIB.O) added 4%.

US-listed shares of Prana Biotechnology Ltd (PRAN.O) plunged 71.6% after the company said its experimental drug to treat Alzheimer's disease failed to meet the main goal of a mid-stage study in patients with a mild form of the condition.

In Asia, shares oscillated between gains and losses as investors weighed reports on China’s manufacturing that underscored weakness in the world’s second-biggest economy.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed at 138 as of 11:11 a.m. in Tokyo. Japan’s Topix index also fluctuated as investors weighed a weaker yen against a survey of sentiment among large manufacturers that missed estimates.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added 0.8% percent. South Korea’s Kospi index rose 0.1%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 0.3%. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index dropped 0.4%. Singapore’s Straits Times Index added 0.4%, while Taiwan’s Taiex index gained 0.1%.

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