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4:09 PM, Mar 26, 2012 --

U.S. stocks soared in Monday's session after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled the central bank is committed to a monetary policy that will help buoy the stock market.

In an address to the National Association for Business Economics, Bernanke also offered a positive take on current unemployment problems in the U.S., saying today's high jobless rate is the result of cyclical problems rather than more permanent causes.

Bernanke's comments kept stocks trading higher despite soft data released today on home sales. The National Association of Realtors said on Monday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in February, slipped 0.5 percent to 96.5, continuing a string of lower sales for the month following an unexpectedly strong January. Economists polled by Reuters had expected signed contracts to climb 1.0% last month.

In company news, Verenium Corp. (VRNM) surged after the farm biotechnology company sold $37 million of food enzymes and oilseed processing licenses to Dutch firm Royal DSM NV.

Healthcare stocks led today's market advance, as the Supreme Court began reviewing the U.S. Healthcare Act. Pfizer (PFE), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), and Merck & Co. (MRK) were all higher.

Gold surged following Bernanke's statements; Gold for April delivery advanced $23.20, or 1.4%, to $1,685.60 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, its highest settlement in nearly two weeks. Crude-oil futures for May delivery gained 16 cents and closed at $107.03 a barrel.

Here's where the markets stood at end-of-day:

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average up 160.90 (+1.23%) to 13,241.63
  • S&P 500 up 19.40 (+1.39%) to 1,416.51
  • Nasdaq Composite up 54.65 (+1.78%) to 3,122.57

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

  • Nikkei 225 up 0.07% to 10,018.24.
  • Hang Seng Index flat.
  • China Shanghai Composite Index up 0.05%.
  • FTSE 100 up 0.82%.

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) BJ's Restaurants (BJRI) - Wedbush raised its rating for the restaurant stock to Outperform from Neutral.

(+) Overland Storage (OVRL) said its SnapServer DX Series of products won the Hardware Product of the Year award at the 2012 Network Computing awards.

(+) Gravity's (GRVY) Ragnork Online II was launched in Korea.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) Safeway (SWY) - Credit Suisse cut rating to Neutral from Outperform and lowered price target to $20 a share.

(-) Cal-Maine Foods (CALM) Q3 earnings slid 22% from year-ago levels as higher costs hurt margins.

(-) KBHomes (KBH) reported loss on Friday.

Source: Boosted By Bernanke, Stocks Overlook Housing Data