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Overnight Markets: US stocks inch higher ahead of Yellen’s testimony

Overnight Markets: US stocks inch higher ahead of Yellen’s testimony

US stocks closed slightly up on Monday as investors digested recent market gains and ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen’s first report on monetary policy on Tuesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained eight points, or 0.05%, at 15,802. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up three points, or 0.16%, at 1,800. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 22 points, or 0.54%, at 4,148.

Most market participants took a wait-and-see attitude ahead of the testimony, looking for confirmation that the Fed would not change its schedule for ending its support for the economy. Yellen's prepared remarks will be available before the market opens on Tuesday.

In corporate news, McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) fell 1.1% after reporting a decline in US January same-store sales, though global sales were above expectations.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc (ALXN.O) jumped 4% after Deutsche Bank raised its price target to $205 from $125.

Hasbro Inc (HAS.O) was the S&P's top percentage gainer, rising 4.5% after the toymaker reported quarterly results and gave an upbeat outlook.

Voice technology company Nuance Communications (NUAN.O) fell 2.3% in after-hours trading after reporting its first-quarter results.

CNA Financial Corp (CNA.N) gained 6.9% after the company said it would sell its life and group insurance business, while parent Loews Corp (L.N) reported a bigger quarterly loss, hurt by impairment charges. Loews lost 4.2%.

Yelp Inc (YELP.N) gained 1.9% after a report that Internet portal Yahoo (YHOO.O) was partnering with the consumer-reviews website to beef up local results in its search engine. Yahoo rose 1.4%.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) jumped 1.8% after Carl Icahn said in a letter to shareholders he sees no reason to persist with his proposal that the iPhone maker buy back $50 billion of its shares.

In Asia, shares gained on Tuesday in morning trade ahead of Yellen’s first testimony on monetary policy.

The MSCI Asia Pacific excluding Japan Index advanced 0.6% to 447 as of 9:41 a.m. in Hong Kong. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.5%, extending gains after a private report showed business confidence rose in January for the first time in four months.

New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index advanced 0.4%. South Korea’s Kospi index added 0.2%. Singapore’s Straits Times Index and Taiwan’s Taiex both gained 0.3%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.7%, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index was little changed. Japanese markets are closed for a holiday.

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