Dow, S&P 500 Close at Record Highs

Wednesday comments from Ben Bernanke went a long way toward boosting stocks Thursday.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both climbed to record highs on Thursday, fueled in part by reassurances from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The Dow closed at 15,461, up nearly 170 points and nearly 1.1 percent from its open. The widely-followed index's previous high was 15,409. The S&P 500 posted a similar boost of nearly 1.4 percent, adding 22.4 points to close at 1,675.

Both indices opened sharply up on Thursday after remarks Bernanke made Wednesday evening about the potential for the Fed to taper its $85 billion monthly purchases of bonds and other securities, popularly known as quantitative easing. The Fed's purchases have have greatly boosted stock markets by lowering interest rates and making equities more appealing to investors than fixed-income investments. Speaking at a National Bureau of Economic Research conference on Wednesday, Bernanke said he thinks the unemployment rate of 7.6 percent "overstates" the health of the job market, and that "a highly accommodative policy is needed for the foreseeable future."

Stock markets have hung on every utterance by the Fed chairman recently, looking for any sign of when tapering might start. Bernanke spooked investors last month, when he announced after June's Federal Open Market Committee meeting of interest-rate policy makers that the central bank was poised to potentially end the stimulus program this year, depending on economic conditions. That news spurred the Dow Jones Industrial Average to its largest single-day drop yet this year.

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