US stocks hit new records TSX advances to twoweek high

North American stocks rose, extending records for U.S. benchmark indexes, as comments from Janet Yellen signaled she will continue the Federal Reserve’s stimulus efforts.The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.4 percent to a record 1,788.23 at 12:13 p.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 31.70 points, or 0.2 percent, to 15,853.33, also a record. Trading in S&P 500 shares was 19 percent higher than the 30-day average for this time of day.“Yellen’s confirmation hearings are under such intense focus by investors,” Gary Flam, managing director and portfolio manager at Bel Air Investment Advisors LLC, said by phone from Los Angeles. Bel Air manages $7 billion in assets. “It just shows how much central bankers are what’s driving the market, and confidence in central bankers is high.”Canada’s benchmark stock market advanced to a two-week high as the next likely leader of the U.S. Federal Reserve made clear the economy will need to show more improvement before the central bank starts to withdraw economic stimulus.The S&P/TSX composite index gained 83.62 points to 13,454.28 with support also coming from strong earnings reports from IT company CGI Group (TSX:GIB.A) and Kinross Gold (TSX:K), its highest level since Oct. 31.The Canadian dollar fell 0.34 of a cent to 95.24 cents US.Yellin’s prepared remarks were released Wednesday after the market close and they indicated she won’t be straying from the low-interest rate policies of outgoing chairman Ben Bernanke.She said the economy has regained ground lost to the recession, but unemployment remains too high.Later, during a question and answer session with senators, Yellen said the Fed understands that quantitative easing, involving the monthly purchase of US$85 billion of bonds, can’t go on forever.But she made it clear that “it is important not to remove support while the recovery is still fragile.”Yellen added that “it is also important to remove accommodation when the right time comes.”A strong rally on markets during October has largely stalled this month on concerns that the Fed could start tapering as soon as next month. The Fed’s bond purchases have kept long-term rates low and supported a strong advance on many markets.“Regardless of when this tapering actually comes to be, and the Fed knows it has this massive balance sheet, it knows it has to start the process to exit,” said Stephen Lingard, portfolio manager at Franklin Multi-asset strategies.“But that doesn’t mean that tighter policy or even less loose policy is imminent.”The gold sector led advancers, up 2.3% while bullion prices advanced with December gold ahead $21 to US$1,289.40 an ounce. Goldcorp (TSX:G) gained 53 cents to $25.82.Kinross Gold Corp. (TSX:K) reported a big drop in third-quarter net earnings amid falling gold prices and higher production costs. Kinross said net income fell to US$49.9 million or four cents per share in the three months ended Sept. 30. Adjusted earnings were $54.4 million or five cents per share, in line with analyst estimates and its shares rose 19 cents to $5.39.The tech sector was up 1.5% with shares in CGI Group Inc. (TSX:GIB.A) up $2.21 or 5.87% to $39.83 after posting $141 million of net income in its fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $168 million a year ago. Ex-items, earnings were 67 cents a share for the Montreal-based IT services company, five cents better than expected. CGI has been partially blamed for the huge problems related to the online launch of Obamacare.In the U.S., Cisco Systems Inc. fell 12.25% to US$21.05 after the tech bellwether posted lower-than-expected revenue for its first quarter on Wednesday and warned that its revenue for the current period could fall as much as 10% from a year ago. Its stock tumbled 11.3% in pre-market trading in New York.Financials were higher with Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) ahead 73 cents to C$65.63.Royal Bank (TSX:RY) will record an unusual negative item in the fourth quarter, about $118 million after taxes, as it grapples with changes to how Ottawa taxes individual life insurance policies. The charge will reflect the reduced long-term profit that it expects from policies issued by its insurance unit and its shares gained 38 cents to $71.44.The energy sector was ahead 0.36% with December crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange down 95 cents to US$92.93 a barrel. Talisman Energy (TSX:TLM) advanced 17 cents to C$12.76.The base metals component was off 0.25% while copper lost ground for a third day, reflecting disappointment that a meeting of Chinese leaders earlier this week failed to yield hoped-for economic reforms. The December contract declined one cent to US$3.15 a pound.Turquoise Hill Resources (TSX:TRQ) fell 28 cents to $4.35. The fall came as the miner suspended work on development of its premier project, the copper mine at Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia after the government said financing for the project would require parliamentary approval. The company said Thursday talks with the government are continuing it will be unable to complete project financing this year.The Canadian Press with files from Bloomberg