By STEVE ROTHWELLAP Markets Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks broke through record highs in early trading Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank is in no hurry to stop supporting the economy.
Bernanke said the U.S. economy still needed help because unemployment remains high and inflation is below the Fed's target. The Fed is currently buying $85 billion a month in bonds to keep interest rates low and to encourage spending and hiring. Bernanke made the comments in a speech late Wednesday after U.S. markets had closed.
The comments were the Fed's latest effort to reassure investors that it won't end its stimulus before it is sure the economy is strong enough. Both stocks and bonds fell sharply on June 19 after Bernanke laid out a potential timetable for when the Fed might start to wind down its bond-buying program.
The Standard & Poor's rose as high as 1,671 in early trading. It closed at a record high of 1,669 on May 21. The index was up 15 points, or 0.9 percent, at 1,668 after the first half-hour of trading.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 135 points, or 0.9 percent, to 15,424. That's above the Dow's own record high close of 15,409 set May 28.
The Nasdaq composite rose 34 points, or 1 percent, to 3,555. The Nasdaq is at its highest since October 2000 but is still well below the all-time high of 5,048 it reached March 10, 2000.
In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year note fell to 2.59 percent from 2.63 percent Wednesday.
In commodities trading, the price of oil fell back from a 16-month high, dropping 83 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $105.66 a barrel. The price of gold rose for a fourth straight day, climbing $35.30, or 2.83 percent, to $1,283 an ounce.
Among stocks making big moves;
- Bridgepoint Education rose $3.53, or 28 percent, to $16.25, after the for-profit education company said its Ashford University had won accreditation. Bridgepoint, which also operates the University of the Rockies, struggled with accreditation problems for much of 2012.
-Microsoft rose 64 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $35.36, after reports that the technology company had announced a major reorganization.
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