U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s comments before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday had a fairly modest but generally positive effect on markets. All three major U.S. indexes ended the day higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbing 18.6 points, or 0.12 percent, to 15,470.42.
On Thursday, Bernanke sat down for a second testimony before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee and articulated a flexible and dynamic wind-down of stimulus purchases and eventual policy tightening. The market, usually skittish when Bernanke addresses the public, seemed reassured by the chairman’s vision of an improving U.S. economy.
In morning trading, the Dow hit a new intraday record of 15,589.4, fueled by Bernanke’s comments but driven by the performance of a few key players. Leading the pack in the middle of the day was UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH), which was trading up nearly 6 percent and set a new 52-week high after reporting strong earnings. Revenue climbed 11.5 percent on the year to $30.41 billion, just missing the average analyst estimate of $30.5 billion. However, adjusted earnings climbed 10.2 percent on the year to $1.40 per share, beating the average estimate of $1.25 per share.