Updated from 2:59 p.m. ET with market close information.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks of major U.S. banks were very strong on Thursday, after the Senate Banking Committee approved Janet Yellen's nomination to be succeed Ben Bernanke as the next chair of the Federal Reserve.
The committee vote sent Yellen's nomination to the floor of the Senate for a confirmation vote. The committee vote in Yellen's favor was 14 to 8, with 11 out of 12 Democratic members and three of the 10 Republican members voting in her favor.
Also on Thursday, in a move that is very likely to ease Yellen's confirmation, but may also backfire on Democrats over the long term, the Senate voted to approve Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D., Nev.) measure to limit the power of the minority party to block presidential nominations through filibuster.
Under the old rules, when the minority party in the Senate would filibuster to prevent a nomination from coming to the floor for a vote, 60 votes were needed to break the filibuster. Going forward, only 51 votes will be needed. All Republicans, along with three Democrats - Senators Carl Levin (D., Mich.), Joe Manchin (D., W.V.) and Mark Pryor (D., Ark.) voted against the measure.Bank of America (BAC - Get Report) was the sector winner, with shares rising 3% to close at $15.59, after Atlantic Equities analyst Richard State called the company his 'top sector pick." The analyst in a note to clients on Monday said that over the next few years he expected Bank of America's earnings to improve from an estimated 89 cents in 2013 to a "normalized" level exceeding $2.00 a share in 2016.
Other major U.S. banks with share rising over 2% on Thursday included JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report), which closed at $57.24, and Morgan Stanley (MS), which closed at $30.90. The KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) was up 1.5% to 67.29, with all 24 index components showing afternoon gains. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average