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Stocks End Mixed as Powell Reaffirms Fed Support

Stocks end mixed but off lows after Fed Chairman Powell assures investors the central bank is a long way from scaling back its support of the U.S. economy.

Stocks finished mixed Tuesday but came off lows after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell assured investors the central bank was a long way from scaling back its ongoing support of the U.S. economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 15 points, or 0.05%, to 31,537 and the S&P 500 rose 0.13%. The Nasdaq slipped 0.5%.

The Dow spent the day in the red and crept up to positive in the last hour of trading.

Powell, in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, said the U.S. economy was "a long way from our employment and inflation goals, and it is likely to take some time for substantial further progress to be achieved."

Powell signaled the central bank won't soon begin tapering the $120 billion of bonds it has been buying per month. 

The Fed previously pledged to keep providing support to the U.S. economy “until substantial further progress” has been made toward its goals of maximum employment and 2% inflation.

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The Fed chief said developments pointed "to an improved outlook for later this year. In particular, ongoing progress in vaccinations should help speed the return to normal activities."

Stocks closed mostly lower on Monday and the Nasdaq dropped 2.46% to a three-week low. Rising bond yields increased concern that high-growth stocks will be more vulnerable to inflation pressures.

Tesla  (TSLA)  finished down 2.2% in trading Tuesday, but had fallen as much as 13% to below the price at which it entered the S&P 500 in December. 

The stock has become closely linked to bitcoin, after the electric vehicle maker made a $1.5 billion investment in the digital token earlier this month. Bitcoin was falling about 14% Tuesday to just above $47,000.

The 10-year Treasury yield traded at 1.359% on Tuesday. Commodity prices continued to suggest a big rebound in global demand over the second half of the year, with copper extending recent gains.

Rising interest rates and fears of increasing inflation have put the brakes on strong gains made at the beginning of February. Despite recent losses, equities remain near all-time highs.

Richard Saperstein, chief investment officer of Treasury Partners, said unless there is a "sustained inflation surge, rising bond yields will have a minor impact on stocks."