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Mark Lennihan / Associated Press

Bond yields climbed again on Wednesday and U.S. stocks held close to their record highs after more reports showed the economy continues to strengthen. The encouraging data could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates sooner rather than later in its gradual move away from record-low rates during the Great Recession.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 2 points, or 0.1%, to 23,340 as of 10:45 a.m. Eastern time. The index closed at a record high Tuesday after rising for the sixth straight day. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 63 points, or 0.3%, to 20,567. The Nasdaq composite rose 11 points, or 0.2%, to 5,793.

Slightly more stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

ENCOURAGING ECONOMIC GAINS: Wednesday’s economic reports give the Federal Reserve more encouragement to raise interest rates, and economists said the possibility is increasing that it may happen in March at the central bank’s next meeting. Retailers had stronger sales in January than economists expected, and inflation at the consumer level was the highest in years. Consumer prices rose 2.5% in January from a year earlier, the highest rate since March 2012.

Fed chief Janet Yellen said in testimony before a Senate committee on Tuesday that the strengthening job market and a modest move higher in inflation should warrant continued, gradual increases in interest rates. The central bank raised rates in December for just the second time in a decade, after keeping rates near zero to help lift the economy out of the Great Recession. Yellen is speaking before a House committee Wednesday.

BOND YIELDS: Treasury yields jumped immediately after the release of the reports on retail sales and inflation. The 10-year yield rose to 2.51% from Tuesday’s 2.47%. The 30-year yield rose to 3.10% from 3.06%.

DAMPENED DIVIDEND DEMAND: When bonds are paying more in interest, it can mean less demand from income investors for stocks that pay big dividends. Utility stocks, which are some of the biggest dividend payers, fell 1.1%, the largest loss among the 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500. Real-estate investment trusts, which are also go-to buys for dividend seekers, were weak as well.

POPPING: Procter & Gamble rose 3.1% to $90.60 after activist investor Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management disclosed in a regulatory filing that it owns a stake in the company.

ALIGHTING: Airline stocks rose after Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway disclosed that it added to its investments in several of them. Southwest Airlines rose 3% to $56.96, Delta Air Lines rose 2.6% to $51.14, United Continental rose 1.8% to $75.06 and American Airlines rose 1.6% to $47.34.

SINKING: American International Group sank 9.1% to $60.79, the biggest loss in the S&P 500, after reporting a larger operating loss for the fourth quarter than analysts expected.

PETRIFIED: Fossil Group plunged 17.6% to $18.85. The watch and accessories company gave a profit forecast for 2017 that fell well short of analysts’ predictions, and it said it may lose money.

GLOBAL MARKETS: In Europe, the German DAX index rose 0.1%, while the French CAC 40 rose 0.6% and Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.4%. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 1%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.2% and the Kospi in South Korea gained 0.4%.

CURRENCIES: The strong U.S. economic reports helped lift the value of the dollar against many of its rivals. The dollar ticked up to 114.64 Japanese yen from Tuesday’s 114.22 yen. The euro fell to $1.0557 from $1.0572, and the British pound slipped to $1.2411 from $1.2465.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 20 cents to $53.44 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 21 cents to $56.16 a barrel in London. Natural gas rose 4 cents to $2.95 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold slipped 30 cents to $1,225.10 an ounce, silver was flat at $17.89 an ounce and copper was flat at $2.74 a pound.

Article by Associated Press.  

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