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Yellen’s Assurances of Continuity Lift Retail, Wall Street

New Federal Reserve chair steadies investors' nerves in remarks to Congress.

Assurances of consistency at the Federal Reserve from new chair Janet Yellen soothed investors’ lingering anxieties, sending markets in the U.S. and Europe higher and propelling retail stocks to their sixth straight day of gains.

Following Yellen’s remarks to Congress about how she expected a “great deal of continuity” with the policies of her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.2 percent to 15,994.77 and the S&P 500 leaped above the 1,800 mark to close ahead 1.1 percent at 1,819.75.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group managed a more modest 0.7 percent gain to close at 891.93, reducing their decline for the year to 5.1 percent.

Sears Holdings Corp. experienced the largest run-up of the retail, fashion and beauty equities tracked by WWD, rising 8.4 percent to $38.72. Burlington Stores Inc.’s shares moved ahead 6.2 percent to $26.68 and J.C. Penney Co. Inc.’s were up 4.9 percent for the day to $5.99.

Bebe Stores Inc.’s shares took a 4.2 percent hit, declining to $5.50, after two days of strong gains following its report late Thursday of smaller-than-expected second-quarter losses, while shares of Urban Outfitters Inc. declined 2.8 percent, to $35.61, after it said late Monday that a 9 percent decline in comparable sales at its Urban Outfitters brand reduced fourth-quarter comps to a 1 percent increase. Corporate net sales advanced 5.7 percent to $905.9 million during the quarter.

European markets rallied as trading ended following Yellen’s remarks and finished with increases of 1 percent or more.        

The DAX in Frankfurt gained the most, climbing 2 percent to 9,487.77; followed by the FTSE 100 in London, 1.2 percent to 6,672.66; the CAC 40 in Paris, 1.1 percent to 4,283.32; and the FTSE MIB in Milan, 1 percent to 19,887.39.

Retail and luxury stocks were mostly on the uptick, with the exception of L’Oréal, which fell 3.2 percent to 124.90 euros after announcing that it planned to buy back 48.5 million of its own shares from Nestlé, and Metro, which was down 3.1 percent after it said first-quarter sales and operating profit were hit by difficult market conditions, adverse currency effects and portfolio changes.

Among the stocks that gained the most ground were Marks & Spencer Group, 2.6 percent to 4.83 pounds; Debenhams, 3.8 percent to 77 pence, and Kering, 2.8 percent to 153.40 euros.

The euro traded at $1.36 against the U.S. dollar while the pound fetched $1.20  and the Swiss franc equaled $1.11.