Stocks Rise as Yellen Signals Caution

(AP) -- U.S. stocks edged higher in early trading Wednesday as investors drew encouragement from news that the Federal Reserve will be more cautious about raising interest rates. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, delivering her semiannual report to Congress, said the Fed would likely move slower to raise rates if the economy disappoints. Health care and technology stocks were among the biggest gainers.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 73 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,088 as of 10:10 a.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor's 500 gained 15 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,867. The Nasdaq composite added 61 points, or 1.4 percent, to 4,329. Stocks are coming off a three-day losing streak.

THE FED SPEAKS: Yellen offered no major surprises in prepared remarks released before the start of her two-day Congressional testimony. She reiterated the Fed's confidence that the U.S. economy was on track for stronger growth and a rebound in inflation. At the same time, she acknowledged the weaker economic data reported since the start of the year and made it clear the Fed is closely monitoring greater risks from abroad. Since the Fed decided to raise its key interest rate from a record low in December, the U.S. economy has hit some turbulence and markets have become volatile.

SECTOR VIEW: Seven of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index moved higher, led by health care stocks. Technology and financials also got a healthy bump. Utilities stocks were the biggest decliners.

BIG GAINER: Akamai Technologies surged 21 percent, the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 index. The stockadded $8.29 to $47.91.

MEDIA MESS: Several big media companies slumped. Disney dropped 3.7 percent a day after it reported that its ESPN network has hit a soft patch. The stock slid $3.63 to $59.58. Time Warner sank 5.8 percent after its revenue fell short of forecasts. Time Warner shed $3.44 to $88.88.

OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany's DAX added 2.2 percent, while France's CAC 40 rose 2 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.7 percent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 sank 2.3 percent and is down about 11 percent in the past month. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 1.2 percent. Markets were closed in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea for Lunar New Year holidays. Hong Kong and Korea reopen on Thursday and China and Taiwan resume trading on Monday.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil was up 16 cents at $28.09 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose 65 cents to $30.97 a barrel in London.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury held rose to 1.75 percent from 1.73 percent late Tuesday. The dollar edged up to 114.65 yen from 114.95 yen, while the euro fell to $1.1217 from $1.1289 the day before.

(KA)