March 31 - Summary: S&P ends March, quarter, higher; Yellen reassures markets of easy policy; London Whale still haunts JP Morgan Chase; GM's Barra set to testify. Bobbi Rebell reports.
Make it two in a row for stocks, adding to Friday's gains in Monday's session. The markets keyed off re-assuring remarks made by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. SOUNDBITE: FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIR JANET YELLEN,(ENGLISH) SAYING: "I believe the Fed's policies will continue to help sustain progress in the job market. But the scars from the Great Recession remain, and reaching our goals will take time." The takeaway - no rush to move away from the Fed's easy monetary policy. Stocks also got a boost from end-of-quarter "window dressing," that's when money managers adjust their positions to make their portfolio's look better. For the quarter, the Dow fell 0.7 percent, the S&P up more than a percent and the Nasdaq up half a percent. But shares of Prana Biotech plunged, losing nearly three-quarters of their value. The company said its experimental Alzheimer's drug failed a mid-stage study. JP Morgan still facing the consequences of the London Whale debacle. A U.S. judge has ruled that a lawsuit, in which shareholders accuse the firm and CEO Jamie Dimon and the firm's Chief Financial Officer Douglas Braunstein of concealing risks that came to light in the $6.2 billion 2012 debacle, will be allowed to go forward. The judge however dismissed related claims against other executives including Ina Drew. And just one day ahead of CEO Mary Barra's testimony before the House Energy and Commerce panel. Documents reveal a General Motors engineer signed off on a design change for troubled ignition switches, even though those changes did not meet company standards. GM stock was lower. Investors may be trying to take some risk off the table, according to a new Reuters poll. U.S. based fund managers cut their average stock holdings to a five-month low in March, holding their highest average position in cash since December. Turning to the economy. New data from the Institute for Supply Management shows the pace of business activity in the Midwest fell to its lowest level since August. In Europe, the major country indices closed down on some end of quarter profit taking.