NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The Dow and the S&P 500 ended at record highs on Wednesday, driven by gains in consumer discretionary shares after results from Macy's eased some worries about the holiday season.
US stock index futures edged up after the bell following the release of Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen's introductory remarks, ahead of her confirmation hearing on Thursday to succeed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. She will appear before the Senate Banking Committee.
Throughout the afternoon, the stock market drew strength from investors' anticipation that Yellen's prepared remarks would be released after the close.
Shares of Macy's Inc shot up 9.4 per cent to US$50.68 (S$63.29), a record closing high, after the US department store operator said promotions had increased sales and business was improving ahead of the holiday season. The stock's rally on Macy's stronger-than-expected earnings spurred demand for consumer discretionary shares.
The S&P consumer discretionary sector index jumped 1.6 per cent, leading the benchmark S&P 500's advance.
Macy's was among the first of several retailers expected to report earnings in the coming days.
"Macy's reported blowout numbers. It's had a positive impact on everything else consumer related today. I think people's expectations were pretty low for holiday shopping, and I think that woke a lot of people up," said Mr Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 70.96 points, or 0.45 per cent, to end at 15,821.63, a record close. The Dow also hit an all-time intraday high of 15,822.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 14.31 points, or 0.81 per cent, to finish at a record 1,782.00.
The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 45.66 points, or 1.16 per cent, to close at 3,965.58.
The S&P 500 also found support from technology stocks, with shares of NetApp rising 2.7 per cent to US$41.29 ahead of the company's results after the close. After the bell, the stock slipped 0.2 per cent to US$41.20 following the release of its results.
Macy's was the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainer.
Among other retail stocks, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. shares edged up 0.2 per cent to US$78.90 a day ahead of its quarterly earnings.
Home Depot Inc, which is set to report results next week, gained 1.9 per cent to US$77.60 and bolstered the Dow industrials.
In addition to Yellen's testimony on Thursday, investors are awaiting a speech from Bernanke. The Fed chairman is scheduled to speak at 7pm on Wednesday (9am Singapore time), though the topic is not specific to monetary policy. A question-and-answer session will follow.
Cisco Systems Inc shares gained 1.12 per cent to about US$24 ahead of the release of the networking equipment maker's earnings.
After the bell, Cisco's stock fell 1.6 per cent after the company reported quarterly revenue that missed Wall Street's expectations.