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US STOCKS-S&P 500 gains after Macy's jumps on strong results

Luke Swiderski
Wednesday, 13 Nov 2013 | 1:42 PM ET

* Macy's sales rise more than expected; shares up over 9 pct

* Volume modest as investors await Fed chair nominee's hearing

* Dow up 0.1 pct; S&P 500 up 0.4 pct; Nasdaq up 0.7 pct

NEW YORK, Nov 13 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday, with the S&P 500's advance led by Macy's after stronger-than-expected quarterly sales and earnings.

Macy's Inc stock shot up 9.7 percent to $50.81, after earlier touching a 52-week high of $50.95, and driving the S&P Consumer Discretionary Sector Index up 1.1 percent. The department store operator said promotions increased sales and business was improving ahead of the holidays.

Volume was still subdued, with investors looking ahead to Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen's appearance on Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee to consider her nomination as Fed chair, replacing Ben Bernanke.

"I think Yellen's presentation is the one everyone is anticipating ... This will be our first chance to see her do some Q&A for her theme at the Fed," said Brian Battle, director of trading at Performance Trust Capital in Chicago.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 16.86 points, or 0.11 percent, at 15,767.53. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 6.76 points, or 0.38 percent, at 1,774.45. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 26.52 points, or 0.68 percent, at 3,946.43.

Home Depot Inc gained 1.9 percent to $77.65 and bolstered the Dow industrials.

Other than consumer discretionary stocks, no other S&P sector index gained more than 0.4 percent.

Investors are waiting for Yellen's testimony on Thursday, along with a speech from Chairman Bernanke, who is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. EST on Wednesday, though the topic is not specific to monetary policy. A question-and-answer session will follow.

As earnings wind down and in a light week for economic figures, investors were reluctant to make big bets after what has been a strong year. So far in 2013, the S&P 500 has climbed 23.8 percent and the Dow has gained 19.8 percent.

"We're very close to year's end. You have a twenty-something-percent rally, and you've been riding that thing. You take your chips off the table," Battle said.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest U.S. retailer and an important bellwether stock, is set to report earnings on Thursday, giving investors an insight into the broader economy. Wal-Mart's stock advanced 0.3 percent to $78.93.

U.S. Treasury prices rose on Wednesday after a $24 billion auction of new 10-year notes attracted solid demand.

Bond markets have sold off recently on speculation by market participants that the Fed will scale back stimulus as early as December, after the Labor Department said on Friday that the U.S. economy created 204,000 jobs in October.

"We are bouncing back and forth here because the market is divided on higher rates and the benefits of a strong economy. Investors have not made up their mind on which is more of a driving force for the market," said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Among Nasdaq stocks, Potbelly Corp shares jumped 14.3 percent to $30.94 a day after the sandwich chain reported results that beat Wall Street expectations.

Shares of Cisco Systems Inc, the networking equipment maker, rose 0.6 percent to $23.88 ahead of the company's quarterly results, which are expected after the close.

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