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Stocks rally as Yellen vows to support economy, S&P higher for quarter

JeeYeon Park
Stocks rally as Yellen vows to support economy, S&P higher for quarter

Stocks traded near session highs again on the final trading day of the quarter, with the Dow up triple digits, after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said there's still room for the central bank to help the economy.

"This week, we'll see a bit of bargain hunting, especially in the momentum names," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. "Going forward, we might get good news for equities if we continue to see a breakdown in correlations - where we have more weeks where the S&P or Russell 2000 outperform the Nasdaq. It means investors are willing to buy stocks and there's a differentiation in investing."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Global Indexes: .DJI) traded up more than 100 points, boosted by Microsoft and United Tech. But the blue-chip index is in the red for the quarter, on track to end a four-quarter winning streak.

The S&P 500 (INDEX:^GSPC - News) and the Nasdaq (NASDAQ:^IXIC - News) were also broadly higher. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded near 14.

All key S&P sectors were in the black, lifted by techs and financials.

Equities may see a boost from end-of-quarter "window dressing,'' when money managers adjust their positions to improve the look of their portfolios.

Still, the S&P 500 is nearly flat for the month and up just over 1 percent for the quarter, on pace for the index's worst quarterly performance since the fourth quarter of 2012. The Nasdaq tiptoed into positive territory, but is still negative for March.

Read More A pullback is almost definitely coming this week

The job market in some ways is tougher now than in any recession, Yellen said at a speech in Chicago. She added the Fed's "extraordinary commitment," in the form of massive bond-buying and ultra-low interest rates, is "still needed, and will be for some time."

Read More Yellen: Fed's in it for long haul with cheap money

Investors will also be closely monitoring for comments on interest rates. During Yellen's first news conference following the FOMC rate decision on Mar. 19, equities were hard hit after the new Fed Chair raised the possibility of an earlier-than-anticipated increase in rates.

"Even before she became the new Fed Chair, Yellen was one of the largest doves on the FOMC," noted Keith Bliss, senior vice president at Cuttone & Co. "She's not necessarily walking back on her previous remarks [regarding rate increase], but she's dampening the enthusiasm that the comment gave-she's emphasizing that decisions are data dependent."

Bond prices dropped across the board on the speech. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was up three basis points, or 0.03 percentage point, to 2.75 percent just after Yellen's comments.

Wall Street was also optimistic amid hopes of stimulus in both the euro zone and China.

Chinese state media reported that the Beijing was preparing measures to bolster the economy. However, gains to Chinese shares were pared by caution ahead of the publication of official manufacturing data on Tuesday. Still, Asian shares ended Monday's session mostly higher .

Meanwhile, European shares were lifted amid hopes the European Central Bank will announce stimulus measures when it meets later this week.

Read More Why April could be the cruelest month for stocks

Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU - News) bounced after Wedbush upgraded the stock to "outperform" from "neutral," saying bad news is already priced into the yoga apparel maker's stock and that it foresees a rebound in investor sentiment.

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA - News) edged higher after the electric car maker reached an agreement with New York State on how it may sell cars. Tesla will be allowed to keep its five currently licensed retail locations, but additional locations will need to follow state dealer franchise laws.

In a released testimony, General Motors (NYSE:GM - News) CEO Mary Barra apologized for the automaker's ignition issue and admited she doesn't know why GM took so long to catch the ignition issue. Barra is scheduled to testify before Congress Tuesday. On Friday, GM expanded its recall to 2.6 million vehicles, adding 917,000 more units.

Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS - News) gained after the media conglomerate said "Frozen" became the top-grossing animated film in box office history , topping $1 billion in global sales.

Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB - News) climbed after the biotechnology company won U.S. approval for its long-acting hemophilia B treatment Alprolix, according to the FDA.

Meanwhile, other biotech and pharmaceutical companies including Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN - News), Vertex Pharma (NASDAQ:VRTX - News) and Gilead (NASDAQ:GILD - News) were higher, reversing a recent sharp slide in the sector. The Nasdaq Biotechnology index plunged 7 percent last week, its fifth consecutive week of declines.

Read More Biotech funds: Immune to fear?

On the economic front, the pace of business activity in the U.S. Midwest fell more than expected in March to its lowest level since August, resuming its recent trend of slower regional growth, according to the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago business barometer.

No major earnings are expected. The big release of this week will be the government employment report at the end of the week, with economists polled by Reuters expecting a gain of 197,000 new jobs in March. The U.S. created 175,000 jobs in February, exceeding expectations.

Read More Why Democrats need a stellar jobs report Friday

Ukraine will likely remain in focus this week. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks on Sunday about ways to defuse the crisis while Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev flaunted Russia's grip on Crimea on Monday by flying to the region and announcing plans to turn it into a special economic zone.

Coming Up This Week:

TUESDAY: PMI mfg index, ISM mfg index, construction spending, auto sales, GM's Barra on Capitol Hill; Earnings from Apollo Group
WEDNESDAY: Mortgage applications, ADP employment report, factory orders, oil inventories, Fed's Lockhart speaks, Fed's Bullard speaks, Amazon event, Nokia event; Earnings from Monsanto
THURSDAY: Challenger job-cut report, international trade, jobless claims, PMI services index, ISM non-mfg index, natural gas inventories, Fed balance sheet/money supply, Google Class C shares expected; Earnings from Global Payments, Micron
FRIDAY: Nonfarm payrolls, GM 'Emergency Motion' hearing; Earnings from CarMax

-By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @ JeeYeonParkCNBC ) Retuers contributed to this story.

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