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U.S. stocks gain; Yellen's comments boost financial stocks

American flags fly at the New York Stock

American flags fly at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street on July 6, 2015. Credit: AP

U.S. stocks climbed on Friday after three days of losses. Investors were encouraged by a report that showed U.S. economic growth was faster in the spring than previously estimated.

Financial companies got a boost after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that the central bank was still likely to raise interest rates this year. Nike jumped after posting strong earnings.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 15 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,948 as of noon Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 200 points, or 1.2 percent, to 16,401. The Nasdaq composite climbed 19 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,753.

SPORTSWEAR SPURT: Nike soared after the company's earnings surpassed analysts' expectations. Nike climbed $10.71, or 9.3 percent, to $125.49.

GROWTH REVISION: The U.S. economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.9 percent in the April-June quarter, up from a previous estimate of 3.7 percent, the Commerce Department reported Friday. The strength came from gains in consumer spending, business investment and residential construction.

RATE RISE COMING: Yellen said in a speech late Thursday that she expects the Fed to begin raising interest rates by the end of the year. She suggested global economic weakness won't be significant enough to alter the central bank's plan to raise its key short-term rate from zero by December. Record low interest rates since the 2008 global financial crisis have been a boon for stocks, underpinning a bull market that has run for six and a half years.

THE QUOTE: "A gradually increasing rate environment is a positive, because it sends a signal ... that the U.S. is on a good, if not great, recovery to growth," said Scott Keifer, global investment specialist at JPMorgan private bank. He expects economic growth to average about 2.5 percent next year, allowing the Fed to raise interest rates gradually.

FINANCIAL BOOST: Banks and other financial companies rose as bond rates climbed. The combination of higher rates and a growing economy is good for those companies. Banks can earn more from making loans when they can charge customers more to borrow money.

EUROPE'S DAY: France's CAC 40 jumped 3.1 percent, while Germany's DAX climbed 2.8 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 2.5 percent.

AUTOS SURGE: Automakers in Germany rebounded after slumping this week in the wake of the emissions-rigging scandal at Volkswagen. The company is expected to announce the appointment of a new CEO on Friday. Germany's BMW rose 4.2 percent, and Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, rose 3.5 percent. French companies Renault and Peugeot Citroen climbed 2.2 percent and 0.7 percent respectively.

BONDS, CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.18 percent from 2.13 percent late Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1197 while the dollar edged up to 120.73 yen.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 finished up 1.8 percent. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.2 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng inched up 0.4 percent. China's Shanghai Composite dropped 1.6 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 39 cents at $45.29 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent Crude, a benchmark for many international oils, fell 11 cents to $48.75 a barrel in London.

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