Feb. 11 - Summary: Stocks cheer in four-day rally as Fed Chief Janet Yellen says Bernanke policy is her policy and Republican-led House approves debt ceiling increase; France's Hollande pushes EU-US trade pact in White House visit. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Traders on Wall Street liked what they heard from new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, and went on a buying spree. All the major indices tacked on at least one percent as stocks enjoy their first four-day stretch of gains this year. In her first public Congressional testimony as Fed chief, Janet Yellen stressed she will stay the course. Her comments remove any doubt on Wall Street as to where U.S. central bank policy is heading, says Jim Bianco of Bianco Research. SOUNDBITE: JIM BIANCO, PRESIDENT, BIANCO RESEARCH (ENGLISH) SAYING: "She did reiterate a continuation of Bernanke's policy, and, when it comes to the monetary policy, what the Fed will do with its bond purchases and what it will do with the future course of interest rates, she made it clear, there is no difference between her and Ben Bernanke. So what you've been accustomed to for the last eight years is going to continue as we move forward when it comes to the monetary policy." The central bank has cut its bond-buying program by $10 billion at each of its last two meetings, reducing monthly purchases to $65 billion, and is likely to keep on doing so. Other developments in Washington met with Wall Street's approval. House Republicans are moving towards okaying a lifting of the nation's borrowing limit without much of a fight. In company news, Sprint reported a smaller fourth-quarter loss thanks to a boost in subscriber growth. CVS Caremark says sales at its drugstores are off to a good start this year - maintaining its outlook for 2014. Food company ConAgra slipped 6.3 percent after cutting full-year profit forecasts for the second time, blaming weaker sales. And Dean Foods slumped 7.3 percent after warning it could post a quarterly loss due to the rising price of milk. In European headlines, French President Francois Hollande and U.S. President Barack Obama held a joint news conference during which Hollande said speed is of the essence in closing a European Union-U.S. trade deal. SOUNDBITE: FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE (FRENCH WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) SAYING: "We have everything to gain from going quickly. Otherwise, we know there would be a pileup of fears, of threats, of anxiety. So, if we are in good faith, if we are all respectful of the other party's position, if we are attached to growth, we can move quickly." European shares posted solid gains led by a 2 percent surge in Germany.