Yellen (Almost) Promises Rate Hike, Wells Fargo Opens More Branches: Finance Winners and Losers

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Markets were relatively flat on Friday, which was a rare feat considering Fed Chair Janet Yellen nearly affirmed a rate hike in 2015. Perhaps investors were too busy planning their long weekends to pay attention?

Meanwhile, in addition to getting a boost from holiday travelers swiping their cards, American Express (AXP) may also get a gift from the Senate.

In a speech at the Greater Providence (R.I.) Chamber of Commerce, Janet Yellen spoke favorably about a 2015 rate hike despite concerns that the job market is not as strong as the 5.4% unemployment figure would suggest.

"If the economy continues to improve as I expect," Yellen said, "I think it will be appropriate at some point this year to take the initial step to raise the federal funds rate target and begin the process of normalizing monetary policy. To support taking this step, however, I will need to see continued improvement in labor market conditions, and I will need to be reasonably confident that inflation will move back to 2 percent over the medium term."

When it comes to Fed-speak, that is about as much certainty as observers can expect.

Small banks may not be the only financial institutions to benefit from a bill that passed Senate Banking Committee on Thursday. The proposal, authored by Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., would relieve small and mid-size banks of some of the capital requirements and stress testing mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act and the Federal Reserve.

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