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US stocks rise as Fed emphasizes slow interest rate pace

U.S. stocks are rising in afternoon trading Tuesday as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank still expects interest rates in the U.S. to rise gradually. Big names including Apple and Microsoft are leading tech stocks higher, while energy companies are falling along with the price of oil.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 55 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,590 as of 12:35 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained eight points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,044. The Nasdaq composite index climbed 39 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,806.

FED FOCUS: In remarks to the Economic Club of New York, Fed Chair Yellen said the Fed expects to move slowly because global economic issues could harm the U.S. economy. Those concerns include a world economic slump, lower oil prices, and the shaky stock market. The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged earlier this month, and economists expect the same at its next meeting in late April.

Stocks were trading slightly lower before Yellen’s remarks.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 97 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $38.42 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 82 cents, or 2 percent, to $40.05 a barrel in London. The price of wholesale gasoline and heating oil also slipped.

Drilling company Transocean lost 62 cents, or 6.7 percent, to $8.69. Hess fell $1.40, or 2.8 percent, to $49.18 and Chevron gave up 38 cents to $94.30.

TECH STOCKS: Apple climbed $1.86, or 1.8 percent, to $107.05 after the FBI dropped its legal efforts to force Apple to break into the iPhone used by Syed Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people in San Bernadino, California, in December. The FBI said it was able to hack into the phone, and asked a court to vacate an order forcing Apple to help. Apple had been fighting the government’s efforts and said it will continue trying to make its products more secure.

Elsewhere, Microsoft added 87 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $54.41. Information technology company SAIC advanced $4.14, or 8.9 percent, to $50.69 after its fourth-quarter profit was far larger than analysts expected.

MEDIVATION INQUIRY: Drugmaker Medivation fell after a group of legislators urged a federal agency to take steps that could cut the price of Medivation’s prostate cancer treatment Xtandi. Xtandi is Medivation’s only approved drug, and sales topped $1 billion last year. The stock shed $4.16, or 10.1 percent, to $37.09.

HOMEBUILDERS RALLY: Homebuilder Lennar is rising after it reported strong quarterly results, selling more homes at higher prices. Its stock gained 94 cents, or 2 percent, to $47.64. Competitor D.R. Horton rose 55 cents to $30.37 and PulteGroup added 19 cents to $18.31.

BANKS BONKED: The weakening price of oil also hurt bank stocks. They have come under pressure this year because investors are worried that their loans to energy companies won’t be repaid. Bank of America fell 30 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $13.32 and Fifth Third Bancorp lost 42 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $16.54.

FEELING GOOD: Consumers said they are feeling more confident, partly because the stock market has rebounded over the last month and a half. The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index rose. Their view of current economic conditions grew dimmer, but consumers reported feeling a bit better about the future.

CONN NOT: Retailer Conn’s skidded $3.80, or 24.3 percent, to $11.85 after its quarterly profit came up short of estimates and its 2016 forecasts disappointed investors.

OVERSEAS: France’s CAC 40 added 0.9 percent and Germany’s DAX picked up 0.4 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was little changed. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.2 percent and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.6 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.1 percent.

CURRENCIES: Bond prices rose and the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note slid to 1.85 percent from 1.89 percent. The euro rose to $1.1255 from $1.1200. The dollar slipped to 113.05 yen from 113.28 yen.

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