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.
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"The market is putting in another good performance," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Capital. "But from a technical perspective, it might be getting a bit ahead of itself, so we could be nearing a technical pullback as the S&P approaches the 2,000 level."
Markets had been building on Wednesday's gains, brushing off the central bank's release of what was thought by many to be a more-hawkish-than-expected set of July meeting minutes. Stocks were able to sustain the momentum of the past six days, mostly on expectations that Yellen will emphasize the importance of sticking to an accommodative interest rate policy. Economists expect that she'll say it's not necessary right now to expedite the reversal of monetary policy, as inflation appears to be easing and wage growth remains muted.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.36% to 17,039.49. The S&P 500 advanced 0.29% to 1,992.37. The Nasdaq gained 0.12% to 4,532.10.
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.
Hormel Foods (HRL) 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) 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