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Overnight Markets: S&P 500 sets record ahead of Yellen speech

Overnight Markets: S&P 500 sets record ahead of Yellen speech

US stocks ended higher on Thursday, sending the S&P 500 to an all-time high, after a flurry of positive economic data and amid optimism that the Federal Reserve is committed to supporting a strengthening economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 60 points, or 0.36%, to 17,039. The S&P 500 gained six points, or 0.29%, to end at 1,992. The benchmark's intraday record high was 1,995. The Nasdaq Composite added six points, or 0.12%, to 4,532.

Market participants avoided big bets before Fed Chair Janet Yellen's speech today at a policymakers' meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which could provide clues on the timing of an interest-rate hike.

US economic data gave stocks a boost. Existing home sales jumped to a 10-month high and initial jobless claims dropped sharply, painting a picture of an economy that is slowly improving.

Bank of America Corp shares jumped 4.1% after the company reached a record $16.65 billion settlement with the US government related to troubled mortgage-backed securities.

Technology shares advanced, with Hewlett-Packard Co shares gaining 5.4% a day after the computing company posted a surprising increase in quarterly revenue.

Shares of eBay jumped 4.7% on a report that the company was mulling a spinoff of its PayPal unit as soon as next year. Hormel Foods Corp. gained 4.3% after reporting earnings and revenue that beat analysts’ estimates.

On the negative side, Sears Holdings tumbled 7.2% after the owner of Sears department stores and the Kmart discount chain reported its ninth straight quarterly loss.

In Asia, shares gained after reports from US housing to manufacturing showed the world’s largest economy is strengthening.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.3 percent to 148.84 as of 10:49 a.m. in Hong Kong. Japan’s Nikkei 225 added 0.1%, while the Topix slipped 0.1%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.3%. South Korea’s Kospi index gained 0.6%. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index and Singapore’s Straits Times Index rose 0.3%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.3% and Taiwan’s Taiex index rallied 1.1%. China’s Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.1%.

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