Stocks close higher on hopes for Fed

Traders work on the floor of the New Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during morning trading on Monday. A recent run of strong U.S. economic data, largely related to housing and jobs, has fueled speculation that the Fed might ease back on its multibillion-dollar bond-buying program, which has helped lift the stock market to all-time highs. (May 20, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Reassuring comments from a Federal Reserve official and better earnings from two big retailers helped push the stock market higher Tuesday.

Stock indexes wobbled between gains and losses in early trading, then took a turn higher just before noon. That's when news crossed that James Bullard, head of the Fed's St. Louis branch, told an audience in Germany that the Fed ought to stick with its bond-buying effort to bolster the economy.

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"Those words were a salve for investors' nerves," said Lawrence Creatura, a fund manager at Federated Investors. Other Fed officials have recently talked about scaling back the program.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 52.30 points to 15,387.58. The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up 0.17 percent to 1,669.16. The Nasdaq was up 0.16 percent to 3,502.12. Both the Dow and the S&P are at record highs.

Shares of Home Depot rose 2.5 percent to $78.71. It reported an 18 percent increase in quarterly income. AutoZone shares jumped 5 percent to $427.84 after the auto-parts company beat analysts' earnings forecasts.

Many investors were already looking ahead to Wednesday, when the Federal Reserve will release minutes from its most recent policy meeting. -- AP

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