By Caroline Valetkevitch
(Reuters) – The S&P 500 closed at a 7-month high on Monday as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen painted a mostly upbeat picture of the economy but gave little sense of when a rate hike may be coming.
Energy shares also boosted the market after oil ended higher for a third straight session. The S&P energy index rose 2 percent, leading gains in the benchmark S&P 500.
Yellen’s remarks, which were likely her last public comments before a policy meeting next week, followed Friday’s dismal monthly jobs report, which raised concerns over the ability of the economy to absorb a rate hike as early as June.
Yellen called the jobs report “disappointing,” but said “one should not attach too much significance to a single report.”
Her remarks seemed to ease some fresh worries about the economy while also underscoring views the Fed may be in no rush to raise rates.
“I think she’s still committed to rate hikes, but she is emphasizing there’s not a timetable. She didn’t say ‘in the next few months,’ which is dovish,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.
In terms of rate hike, he said, “we’re not talking about June or July but maybe later this year” now.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 113.27 points, or 0.64 percent, to 17,920.33, the S&P 500 gained 10.28 points, or 0.49 percent, to 2,109.41, its highest close in seven months.
The Nasdaq Composite added 26.20 points, or 0.53 percent, to 4,968.71.
The gains pushed the market a bit closer to all-time highs last reached in May 2015. The S&P 500 is now just about 21 points shy of its all-time closing high.
Biotech shares jumped, with the Nasdaq Biotech Index up 1.5 percent.
Kite Pharma rose 10.3 percent to $57.42 while Juno Therapeutics gained 10.5 percent to $48.50. Both said they could receive initial regulatory approvals next year for a type of immunotherapy treatment known as chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapies.
About 6.4 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.9 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 2,119 to 928, for a 2.28-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 2,014 issues rose and 830 fell for a 2.43-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 39 new 52-week highs and one new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 90 new highs and 29 new lows.
(Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza and Nick Zieminski)