US stocks rose in volatile trading on Friday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank remained ready to act to bolster the economy, but he didn't signal any imminent monetary stimulus.
Equities briefly cut gains made soon after the open and before Bernanke began speaking as investors appeared initially disappointed that Bernanke proposed no aggressive measures to boost sluggish growth. Stocks had risen in recent weeks on expectations that he would.
“There are likely some empty feelings among investors after this. We wanted something to sink our teeth into and he didn't give it to us today,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank in Chicago.
But in his speech at the Kansas City Fed's annual Jackson Hole, Wyoming, symposium, Bernanke didn't shut the door on more stimulus and said that progress in bringing down unemployment was too slow. The Fed's next policy meeting is in mid-September, and many analysts are looking to that for the final word on QE3.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 113.05 points, or 0.87 percent, at 13,113.76. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 8.79 points, or 0.63 percent, at 1,408.27. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 13.01 points, or 0.43 percent, at 3,061.72.
Bernanke “couldn't have been more clear in this speech that he is not satisfied with the economy, not satisfied with where the unemployment rate is and therefore prepared to act,” said John Canally, investment strategist at LPL Financial in Boston.
Recent data has also indicated the economy continues to grow. On Friday, consumer sentiment climbed more than expected to a three-month high, while the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago's index of Midwest business activity fell in August to 53.0 from 53.7 in July.
For the week, the Dow is down 0.3 percent, the S&P is off 0.2 percent and the Nasdaq is off 0.2 percent, putting all three on track for a second straight week of losses. However, the lion's share of the action has come in the past two days, with Friday's rally offsetting Thursday's steep selloff.
Trading has been thin lately, with this week's four days so far being among the five lowest in terms of volume this year.
Investors are also looking ahead to a meeting of the European Central Bank on Thursday that is expected to take pressure off highly indebted countries. Comments from European Central Bank Executive Board member Benoit Coeure rekindled expectations for central bank action.
In company news, Google Inc Chief Executive Larry Page and Apple CEO Tim Cook have been conducting behind-the-scenes talks about a range of intellectual property matters, including the mobile patent disputes between the companies, people familiar with the matter said. Apple shares were flat while Google edged higher.
American Airlines parent AMR Corp and US Airways Group Inc said the carriers have to evaluate a potential merger. US Airways rose 2.6 percent to $10.67. - Reuters