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Stocks soar as Fed chief eases slowing growth fears

Markets Go Into Freefall As Dow Plunges Over 500 PointsMarkets Go Into Freefall As Dow Plunges Over 500 Points
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.Photograph by Getty Images

U.S. stocks soared Friday, a day after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said she expects interest rates to be raised this year, easing concerns about slowing global growth.

Nike’s (NKE) surprisingly strong results in China and data showing that the U.S. economy expanded more than previously estimated in the second quarter added to the positive tone.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 160 points, or 1%, The broader S&P 500 was up 0.6%, and the Nasdaq composite jumped 0.3%.

Markets have been skittish since last Thursday, when Yellen cited concerns about slowing growth as a key reason for holding off from a much-anticipated hike. Since then, the S&P 500 had fallen about 3 percent through Thursday’s close.

Yellen said she and other policymakers do not expect recent global economic and financial market developments to significantly affect the central bank’s policy.

“There is some optimism after Yellen’s speech,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

“She has raised the prospect of a December rate hike pretty high because the issues the Fed listed at its last meeting for not raising aren’t going to go away in the next six weeks.”

Federal fund futures contracts showed traders were pricing in more than a 50 percent chance of a rate hike by the end of this year.

The CBOE Volatility index, known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge”, fell 7.7 percent to 21.69, but remained above its long-term average of 20.

Nike jumped to a record high, giving the biggest boost to the Dow and the S&P. The company’s quarterly profit topped expectations on strong growth in China.

All 10 major S&P sectors were higher, led by the financial index’s 1.28 percent gain. Bank stocks rose after Yellen’s comments.

Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan (JPM), Citigroup (C) and Wells Fargo (WFC) were up.

Apple (AAPL) was up as its new iPhones went on sale on Friday.

Pier 1 Imports (PIR) slumped to an almost 5-year low after the home decor and furniture importer’s results missed expectations.

Data on Friday showed stronger construction and consumer spending helped U.S. gross domestic product rise at a 3.9-percent annual pace in the April-June quarter, up from the 3.7-percent pace reported last month.