U.S. stock indexes were moving higher in morning trading Thursday, led by gains in technology companies and banks. Big retail chains and other consumer-focused stocks were also among the gainers. Health care companies were among the laggards. Investors had their eye on Washington, where Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen was testifying before Congress for the second day.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,446 as of 11:33 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 22 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,554. The Nasdaq composite added 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,264. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks slid 6 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,417.
FED TALK: Yellen was appearing before a Senate committee, a day after she testified before a House panel. On Wednesday, she raised the possibility that the Fed would consider slowing the pace of its interest rate increases if inflation remained persistently below its target level. The remarks assuaged concerns among some traders that the Fed was raising interest rates too quickly in the face of stalling inflation and sluggish U.S. economic growth, setting off a broad market rally.
EARNINGS AHEAD: Investors were also looking ahead to Friday, when Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and other big banks kick off the second-quarter reporting season. The market expects earnings per share growth of about 7 percent from companies in the S&P 500.
"Markets are really biding their time until we get into tomorrow's more robust earnings releases," said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager for Private Wealth Management at U.S. Bank.
TECH SURGE: Technology companies were up the most. EBay gained 50 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $36.53. NetApp rose 63 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $40.81.
RETAIL RALLY: Several retail chains were notching gains. Macy's rose 78 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $22.01. Gap added $1.12, or 5.2 percent, to $22.69. Target climbed 3.7 percent after it raised its second-quarter forecasts and said sales and customer traffic grew. The stock gained $1.87 to $52.74.
FINANCIALS CLIMB: Banks and other financials stocks rose. Morgan Stanley added 63 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $45.49. Synchrony Financial added 35 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $29.68.
BIG GAINER: NRG Energy climbed 9.6 percent a day after the company disclosed plans to raise up to $4 billion through asset sales in order to lower its debt. The stock was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, climbing $2.03 to $23.12.
UNDER THE WEATHER: Health care stocks were among the laggards. Vertex Pharmaceuticals fell $2.20, or 1.7 percent, to $129.24. Abbott Laboratories slid 54 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $47.89.
TURBULENT QUARTER: Delta Air Lines was down 2.1 percent after the company reported a smaller profit and less revenue than analysts expected. The stock shed $1.15 to $54.33.
BONDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.35 percent from 2.33 percent late Wednesday.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 38 cents to $45.87 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 64 cents to $48.38 per barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 113.36 yen from 113.25 yen late Wednesday. The euro weakened to $1.1403 from $1.1416.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany's DAX rose 0.1 percent, while the CAC 40 in France was up 0.3 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was off 0.1 percent. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index jumped 1.2 percent after a report showed that Chinese trade growth accelerated for a second month in June. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index was flat. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.7 percent.