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U.S. stocks closed higher Monday, with energy leading as oil rose, after comments from Fed Chair Janet Yellen remained positive on the economy while omitting a specific reference to the timing of a rate hike.
The S&P 500 closed at its highest since Nov. 3 and 1.1 percent below its 52-week intraday high set last July. Energy jumped about 2 percent in its best day since April, as U.S. crude oil futures settled at their highest since July.
"You have oil prices moving higher and that's been helpful," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial.
"The market right now needs to have growth. It also needs to have earnings revisions moving in a positive direction, which they are," she said. "If the GDP forecast continues to stay above two percent, I think it satisfies the need for the market at this valuation."
Yellen's midday remarks at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia did not give a specific time period for the next hike but said the Fed funds rate probably needs to rise gradually over time. Yellen said while the overall labor market situation has been quite positive, Friday's report was "disappointing."
The market "realized pretty quickly she wasn't talking about a rate hike next week," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth. "I think one's coming but that shouldn't knock the market off this level. A rate hike followed by an indication that another would soon follow, that would knock the market off."
The U.S. dollar index came off session lows to trade mildly lower, with the euro near $1.136 and the yen around 107.6 yen against the greenback. The dollar index fell nearly 1.7 percent Friday in its worst day since early December.
"I still think July is still a possibility. I think June is off the table," said John Caruso, senior market strategist at RJO Futures.
On May 27, Yellen had said a rate hike in the next few months would probably be appropriate.
U.S. crude oil futures settled 2.2 percent higher, or $1.07, at $49.69 a barrel, while brent traded above $50 to hit a fresh high for the year so far. The gains in oil were supported by a soft U.S. dollar and near-term supply disruptions from attacks on Nigerian oil infrastructure.
"This (rise in oil prices) is all very positive for that sector of the economy that has been a concern from a credit risk point of view," said Marc Chaikin, CEO of Chaikin Analytics.
He also noted support for stocks overall from gains in small-cap stocks. The Russell 2000 outperformed with gains of nearly 1.1 percent.
In economic news, Reuters reported the Fed's index on labor market conditions fell in May for a seventh-straight month to minus 4.8, the lowest since May 2009.
Earlier, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that it's a "fair assessment" the chance of a June rate rise is now much lower and that it would be better for the Fed to raise rates on the back of good economic news.
Separately, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart told Bloomberg Television the U.S. central bank should wait until July before considering whether to hike interest rates, citing a weak May jobs report and potential disruptions from Britain's June 23 vote on whether to leave the European Union. He is a non-voting member of the FOMC.
Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, a voting member, said the U.S. economy's recent recovery has moved the Fed closer to raising rates, although May's "disappointing" employment report might delay the timing of the next hike.
On Friday, U.S. stocks closed lower with financials lagging after the May jobs report disappointed with a headline figure of just 38,000, the smallest gain since 2010 and well below expectations of 162,000. The unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, primarily due to a decline in labor force participation. Average hourly wages rose 0.2 percent from the prior month for a year-on-year increase of 2.5 percent.
The major European indexes closed slightly higher, while bank stocks lagged.
Asian stocks closed mixed, with the Shanghai composite and Nikkei 225 slightly lower and the Hang Seng about 0.4 percent higher.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 113.27 points, or 0.64 percent, at 17,920.33, with Boeing leading advancers and Home Depot the greatest laggard.
The S&P 500 closed up 10.28 points, or 0.49 percent, at 2,109.41, with energy leading eight sectors higher and telecommunications and utilities the only decliners.
The Nasdaq composite closed up 26.20 points, or 0.53 percent, at 4,968.71
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded higher near 13.6.
About seven stocks advanced for every three decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 866 million and a composite volume of nearly 3.4 billion in the close.
Gold futures for August delivery settled up $4.50 at $1,247.40 an ounce.
—Reuters contributed to this report.
On tap this week:
8:30 a.m. Productivity and costs
1 p.m. $24 billion three-year note auction
3 p.m. Consumer credit
10 a.m. JOLTs
1 p.m. $20 billion 10-year note auction
8:30 a.m. Initial claims
10 a.m. Wholesale trade
1 p.m. $12 billion 30-year bond auction
10 a.m. Consumer sentiment
2 p.m. Federal budget
*Planner subject to change.
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