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US stocks gain in early trade

Traders buy Verizon shares on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on February 24, 2014
Traders buy Verizon shares on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on February 24, 2014

US stocks gained modestly in early trade Wednesday with investors mostly tentative ahead of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's testimony in Congress on Thursday.

An hour into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 54.46 points (0.34 percent) at 16,234.12.

The broader S&P 500 gained 5.54 (0.30 percent) at 1,850.66, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 18.90 (0.44 percent) to 4,306.49.

Patrick O'Hare of Briefing.com said the market was waiting to see Yellen's update view of the economy after a bit of disappointing economic data.

Yellen testified before the House of Representatives two weeks ago and said the Fed's forecasts for the year were unchanged despite some recent signs of weakness.

"Since round one on February 11, there has been more disappointing data and the release of the Fed transcripts from 2008. That should prod some pointed questions from committee members and some potentially market-moving responses from Ms. Yellen," O'Hare said.

Retailer Target's shares gained 4.7 percent despite the company warning that costs related to the huge data breaches in December could impact 2014 profits.

General Electric shares lost 0.4 percent. The company said it would restate 2013 earnings and slice $1 billion from net profit due to a deal to pay $1.7 billion to Japan's Shinsei Bank to resolve possible claims from the 2008 sale of its Japanese consumer finance business to Shinsei.

A huge profit miss by oil and gas exploration firm QEP Resources sent its shares tumbling 16.2 percent. QEP said its natural gas production fell 21 percent in the last quarter, blaming harsh winter weather, and that doubled the company's quarterly loss from a year ago to $52.0 million.

Strong earnings and an expanded share buyback program from home improvement chain Lowes pushed its shares up 5.8 percent.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 2.69 percent from 2.70 percent late Tuesday, while the 30-year declined to 3.64 percent from 3.66 percent.

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