Deal talk in the media world and some upbeat earnings helped boost sentiment on Wall Street. The Dow (^DJI) finished 77 points higher at 17,138, another record close. The Nasdaq (^IXIC) gained almost 10 points to close at 4,426 and the S&P 500 (^GSPC) finished 8 points higher at 1,981.
The Fed's Beige Book showed a pickup in economic activity overall and a stronger labor market. Manufacturing, consumer spending and tourism were the strongest sectors, while New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas and San Francisco regions were the strongest regions.
Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen was back on Capitol Hill today for her second day of testimony to Congress. Yellen didn’t rock the boat when it came to equity valuations, like she did on Tuesday. However, she defended the central bank's independence when grilled by Republican lawmakers about legislation to make the Fed more transparent.
IBM (IBM) shares rose $3.87 to $192.36 while Apple (AAPL) shares fell 54 cents to $94.78 after the former rivals announced they would join forces to develop apps for iPhones and iPads to sell to business customers. The news of the partnership drove down shares of Blackberry (BBRY) down by $1.33, or 11.8%, to $9.97.
Intel (INTC) shares gained $2.94 -- more than 9% -- to close at $34.65 after the chipmaker reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue and provided an upbeat outlook for its current quarter. It cited a pickup in demand for PCs and growth in its data-center businesses for the improved outlook and said it will buy back $20 billion worth of stock.
Bank of America (BAC) shares fell 30 cents to $15.51 after it reported a 43% decline in profits due to litigation expenses and a drop in mortgage originations. However, excluding legal costs, earnings and revenue for the country's second largest bank topped estimates. The Wall Street Journal also reported that bank lawyers met with Justice Department lawyers and offered to pay $13 billion to settle a mortgage probe, but the government continues to hold out for billions more.