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S&P 500 ends at record and up for 2014

NEW YORK — The S&P 500 closed at a record on Thursday and ended in positive territory for the year after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said harsh weather seems to be to behind recent U.S. economic softness.

That gave some relief to investors who supported the view that heavy snowstorms and unusually cold weather — and not worsening fundamentals — were to blame for weak U.S. employment, retail sales and other data.

The advance lifted the S&P 500 above its 2013 year-end closing level of 1,848.36, which has served as resistance in recent sessions.

“The market was worried. She could have excluded weather and perhaps talked more about the soft patch,” said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial, which is based in Newark, New Jersey.

“I think she gave the market some comfort that she thought it was probably mostly due to weather-related issues.”

Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, Yellen also said the Fed would watch carefully to ensure weather was indeed the culprit behind the recent weakness. But she said it would take a “significant change” to the economy’s prospects for the central bank to put plans to reduce its bond-buying program on hold.

Retailers ranked among top gainers for a third session, with the shares of J.C. Penney Co Inc and others jumping after the companies posted strong results.

Mylan Inc gave one of the biggest boosts to both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq. Mylan’s shares shot up 9.4 percent to end at $56.27 after the U.S. generic drugmaker gave a 2014 forecast above Wall Street’s estimates. Mylan also said it plans to make a “substantial” transaction this year that would add to future earnings.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 74.24 points or 0.46 percent, to end at 16,272.65. The S&P 500 gained 9.13 points or 0.49 percent, to finish at 1,854.29, surpassing its previous record closing high set on Jan. 15.

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