Markets Close Higher as Bernanke Signals Support

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks closed higher Friday as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled a continuation of monetary support for a U.S. economic recovery.

The S&P 500 tacked on 0.43% to 1,633.70, and gained 1.19% for the week.

"It just doesn't seem like a market that wants to lie over and play dead," said Marty Leclerc, chief investment officer at Barrack Yard Advisors. "Clearly we're closer to the end of something than the beginning of something but how long this end-phase can last is anyone's guess."

Bernanke, in a speech this morning at a Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago-sponsored conference, said the Fed is closely monitoring the asset markets for any instances of "reaching for yield" and other forms of excessive risk-taking that could destabilize asset prices and that it continues to watch out for remaining vulnerabilities in the shadow banking sector.

Commodities dropped as the dollar strengthened to a four-year-high. June crude oil contracts closed down 35 cents to $96.04 a barrel and gold futures plunged $32 to settle at $1,436.60 an ounce.

"The strong dollar is going to give the market a bit of a bit of indigestion," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York. "The stronger dollar is weighing on risk. We're not at levels where we have to worry about exports falling apart, but certainly as the dollar gets stronger, it is a bit of negative on the market."

The U.S. dollar index was up ahead by 0.58% to $83.17 in afternoon trades and booked a four-year high against the Japanese yen as the currency breached the 100 yen to U.S. dollar mark for the first time since April 2009 as investors became more optimistic about the U.S. economy after strong reports on the U.S. labor market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.2% to 15,118.49. The blue-chip index added 1% for the week. The Nasdaq closed up 0.8% to 3,436.58. The tech-heavy index jumped 1.7% for the week.

Actavis ( ACT) was the top performing stock on the S&P after the generic drug maker said it was in early discussions to buy Warner Chilcott, according to a Bloomberg report. Shares of the company jumped 12% to $119.86.

CareFusion ( CFN ) declined, falling 3.1% to $33.59 after the medical technology company said its 2013 revenue guidance could fall by as much as the low-single-digits on a percentage basis compared with its previous expectation that revenue would grow 1% to 3%.

Priceline.com ( PCLN) jumped 3.8% to $765.41 after the online-travel company garnered bullish action with earnings that beat Wall Street expectations, offsetting weaker-than-anticipated guidance. Piper Jaffray raised its price target to $850 from $800, followed by Macquarie, Credit Suisse, Jefferies, and Raymond James, overshadowing JMP Securities' and Deutsche Bank's price-target cuts following the second-quarter outlook.

Oil and natural gas exploration company QEP Resources Inc. ( QEP ) gained 5.4% to $29.88 after its operating arm, QEP Midstream Partners LP, revealed Thursday that it filed for an IPO of as much as $400 million.

Gap ( GPS) was another big gainer in the S&P, tacking on 5.6% to $40.99 after the apparel retailer reported a 7% increase in April same-store sales driven by increases at Old Navy and produced an earnings guidance that also exceeded forecasts. Canaccord Genuity has raised its price target on Gap to $40 from $39 a share.

The U.S. Treasury's monthly budget report showed a monthly net surplus of $112.9 billion in April.

Written by Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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