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Stocks rise on Yellen’s view

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks rose on Monday, with the S&P 500 ending both March and the first quarter of 2014 with moderate gains, after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen relieved concerns about a rate hike coming earlier than expected.

This was the fifth straight quarterly rise for both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, though it was the smallest three-month advance for both since the fourth quarter of 2012. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 rose for a second straight month in March.

Gains were broad, with nine of the S&P 500’s 10 sector indexes rising for the day. About 73 percent of stocks traded on both the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq closed higher.

The S&P materials sector index was the best performer, jumping 2.1 percent, while the S&P utility sector index advanced 1.3 percent.

Technology and financial shares, which along with materials are tied to the pace of economic growth, also outperformed for the day. Micron Tech climbed 8 percent to $23.66, ranking as the S&P 500’s top percentage gainer. Oracle Corp. rose 3.4 percent to end at $40.91.

In her first public speech since becoming Fed chair two months ago, Yellen said that the U.S. central bank’s “extraordinary” commitment to boosting the economy would be needed for some time to come.

Earlier this month, Yellen raised concerns by saying that the period between the end of the Fed’s quantitative easing program and the first rate increase from the central bank could be six months, a faster timeline than many had anticipated.

“What Yellen did today was to alleviate that confusion and provide more clarity. When there aren’t concerns about the Fed tightening, the market can breathe easier,” said Joseph Tanious, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management in New York.