NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The heated debate between inflation hawks and doves is about to amp up a couple of notches as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gets her own forum to broadcast her economic views on Friday.

U.S. stocks settled on a firm note Thursday, with the S&P 500 sitting at a new record as investors anticipate Yellen's speech on Friday at the annual gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyo. The event kicks off on Thursday and ends on Saturday.

A number of economic releases on Thursday could provide more color heading into Yellen's speech.

U.S. existing home sales increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.15 million units in July vs. the average estimate of 5.02 million units. The Philly Fed manufacturing index reached a three-year high in August.

The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index registered 58 in August, up sharply from 55.8 in July and the highest reading in more than four years.

U.S. initial jobless claims for last week arrived below expectations at 298,000 vs. the 300,000 consensus estimate.

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In top corporate news Thursday, eBay (EBAY) - Get eBay Inc. Report popped 4.66% to $55.89 amid reports that eBay is considering spinning off its PayPal business as early as next year.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) - Get HP Inc. (HPQ) Report surged 5.35% to $37 after the company posted its first revenue increase in 12 quarters drive by a 12% jump in PC division sales. 

Hormel Foods (HRL) - Get Hormel Foods Corporation (HRL) Report advanced 4.3% to $49.92 after the maker of Spam and Dinty Moore stew beat third-quarter earnings expectations by 3 cents, at 51 cents a share, driven by strong demand for pork and turkey.

Bank of America's (BAC) - Get Bank of America Corp Report much-anticipated settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over fraudulent mortgage securities the bank sold to investors is less punitive than the $16.65 billion price tag suggests and doesn't address the wrongs it purports to remedy, says TheStreet's Dan Freed. Shares were up 4.12% to $16.16.

--By Andrea Tse in New York

Follow @AndreaTTse