Feb. 27 - Summary: Wall Street is back to a record and the S&P 500 is positive for the year as the Fed chief adds to hopes the economic soft patch is weather related; JC Penney surges 25 percent on turnaround progress. Conway G. Gittens reports.
U.S. stocks found a friend in Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. The S&P 500 finally broke through to close at a record high - and is now positive year-to-date. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told the Senate Banking Committee that the central bank is keeping to its stimulus-trimming schedule. She also said it's too soon to know how much weather is affecting the economy, but hinted policymakers see recent weakness as a short-term event. Investors agree. Orders for durable goods fell 1 percent in January, but excluding transportation, a sign of corporate demand surprisingly rose. Meanwhile, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, but the long-term trend suggests the labor market has changed little in recent weeks. On to earnings... After two years of massive losses, it looks like J.C. Penney is turning a corner. The company reported better sales and profit margins for the holiday season, and said it expects more improvement in comparable sales this fiscal year. Take a look at the stock - surging 25 percent in just one day. Best Buy chalked up better-than-expected profits through the holiday season and says it will cut costs more aggressively this year to pay for its turnaround. The stock, however, gave up early gains to finish down by less than one percent. Meanwhile, sales fell sharply at Sears and its discount chain Kmart. And the retail operator reported a quarterly loss. But the company is making progress and investors rewarded the stock with a near 6-1/2 percent pop. In Europe...investors hope tensions in Crimea, Ukraine won't lead to military action by Russia... As for markets, stocks ended off the lows and actually finished higher in the U.K.