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S&P Rallies to Record High

Stocks are back in rally-mode, with the S&P 500 index touching a new record high as mergers, Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s upcoming conclusion to her Humphrey-Hawkins testimony and the hope for accelerating global growth all fuel an impressive run-up in prices. Economic data today was again disappointing, but the financial markets have all but dismissed any data from December through February as being adversely impacted by the weather. Instead, the equity market is hoping that Yellen’s testimony before the Senate Banking Committee Thursday will inspire another triple-digit rally in the Dow.

In merger news, RF Micro Devices (NASDAQ:RFMD) will buy TriQuint Semiconductor (NASDAQ:TQNT) for $1.6 billion, while Men’s Wearhouse (NYSE:MW) continued its courtship of Jos. A. Bank (NASDAQ:JOSB), increasing its buyout offer by over 10% from its prior bid to $63.50 per share.

Today’s data was weak across the board, starting with the Chicago Fed National Activity index which dropped to a negative 0.39 reading from a positive 0.16 score in December. That followed by a decline in the Purchasing Managers Index for the service industries to a 52.7 reading this month from 56.6 in January. Finally, the Dallas Fed Business Activity Index fell to 0.3 in February from 3.8 the month prior.

In Europe, stocks erased overnight losses to close with modest gains in the wake of another positive day on Wall Street, coupled with an increase in a German confidence index. During the G20 conference in Australia this weekend, the IMF recommended central bankers maintain easy monetary policy to stimulate global growth, while European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said that the ECB might consider additional stimulus measures at next week’s policy meeting after taking a look at the most recent inflation data.

Crude oil was up $0.89 to $103.09 per barrel. Natural gas was down $0.10 to $4.91 per 1 million BTU. Gold was up $15.00 to $1,336.60 an ounce, while silver was up $0.35 to $22.16 an ounce. Copper was down $0.03 to $3.23 per pound.

Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was up 0.85% to $37.01 with the United States Natural Gas Fund was down 2.17% to $27.12. Amongst precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was up 0.85% to 26.80 while SPDR Gold Shares was up 1.07% to $128.95. The iShares Silver Trust was up 1.48% to $21.28.