In testimony on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Bernanke said the Fed would stick to its benchmarks for a policy change -- unemployment at 6.5 percent or lower and inflation not over 2 percent per year -- although, he said, that could change as the economy picks up steam.
In late morning trading Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average added 90.08 points, or 0.65 percent, to 13,990.21. The Standard and Poor's 500 added 11.10 points, or 0.74 percent, to 1,508.04. The Nasdaq composite added 26.97 points, or 0.86 percent, to 3,156.62.
Investors shrugged off a Commerce Department report that said new durable goods orders declined 5.2 percent in January, a sharper drop than expected.
The 10-year U.S. treasury rose 3/32 to yield 1.875 percent.
Against the dollar the euro rose to $1.3104 from Tuesday's $1.3061. Against the yen, the dollar fell to 91.73 yen from 91.98 yen.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 dropped 1.27 percent, 144.84 points, to 11,253.97.
Durable goods orders slipped in January
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. durable goods orders declined 5.2 percent in January from December, the U.S. Commerce Department said Wednesday.
Orders dropped further than expected as economists had predicted a slide of 4.4 percent.
Orders retreated to $217 billion, off $11.8 billion from December, which had posted the category's fourth consecutive month of increases.
Transportation orders, down for three of the past four months, "drove the decrease," by dropping 19.8 percent ($14.7 billion) from December to $59.7 billion.
Within that segment, defense aircraft orders fell the furthest, dropping $5.1 billion in the month, the report said.
Shipments of durable goods, which are goods expected to last at least three years, dropped by 1.2 percent month to month to $226.1 billion -- a slide that follows a 0.5 percent increase on the previous month.
Inventories rose by 0.2 percent to $374.8 billion, climbing for the 15th month out of the last 16.
Non-defense capital goods orders, a leading economic index, dropped 0.1 percent -- $100 million -- to $72.22 billion.
Capital goods orders represent manufacturing firms investing in themselves by purchasing production equipment. It is viewed as a sign that manufacturers believe production warrants further investment.
New Jersey adopts online gambling law
TRENTON, N.J., Feb. 27 (UPI) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed a law legalizing online gambling in the state that applies only to persons physically in New Jersey.
The law that allows online poker, blackjack and slot machines is expected to bring in $410 million the first year, H2 Gambling Capital estimated.
Revenue is expected to grow to $590 million in the ensuing years. New Jersey's take will be 15 percent of the revenue, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The Journal said computers can verify whether or not the gambler is in the state or not. Gambling Web sites will have to be set up to monitor the location of participants.
Online gambling, which has had a rocky history with the U.S. Justice Department, is also allowed in Nevada and Delaware.
Last week, Gov. Brian Sandoval in Nevada signed a law that allows for the state to form gaming networks with other states to expand the pool of possible players.
"We have been at the forefront of online gaming here in Nevada. With New Jersey [about to legalize online gambling], the need for Nevada to act quickly has become even more important," Sandoval said last week.
Women work 59 days for free in Europe
BRUSSELS, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- The gender gap for women in Europe amounts to nearly three months per year of working for free, the European Commission said Wednesday.
The gender pay gap is 16.2 percent, the commission said. That is the average difference in hourly earnings between men and women.
That difference equals 59 days of work per year for free. Given a typical work week is five days long, that equals nearly three months of work.
The report was timed in advance of 2013 European Equal Pay Day, which is Thursday.
"The EU-wide event marks the extra number of days that women would need to work to match the amount earned by men: currently 59 days, meaning this year the day falls on 28 February," the commission said in a statement.
The event celebrates efforts around Europe to narrow the gender gap. This year, the commission noted German media firm Axel Springer AG launched an "Opportunities Equal" program that has a goal of increasing the numbers of women in managerial positions to 30 percent within 5-8 years.
Omnitel, a mobile communications company in Lithuania, has increased the numbers of its female managers by offering flexible arrangements meant to create "a family friendly work environment," the commission said.
The pay gap has declined slightly in recent years due to the economic downturn that has depressed earnings for men in various fields, such as construction, faster than it has for the labor market on the whole, the commission said.
Hyundai to mass produce hydrogen fuel cars
SEOUL, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co. said it will begin mass production of hydrogen-fueled cars at its plant in southeastern Ulsan.
The company, which becomes the first mass manufacturer of such vehicles, said it plans to make hydrogen-fueled versions of its Tucson ix sport utility vehicles, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo reported.
The company was quoted as saying it is two years ahead of other global automakers who are seeking to start mass production of hydrogen-fueled cars.
The company said its new car will travel up to 369 miles on a single charge.
Yonhap News reported Hyundai plans to sell 15 hydrogen cell cars to Denmark and two more to Sweden by April. The company also plans to sell about 1,000 units around the world by 2015.
Yonhap said the new car will emit only water as it converts hydrogen into electricity, thus reducing dependence on internal combustion engines blamed for producing greenhouse gases.
"We expect to realize an environmentally friendly era more quickly through the mass production of hydrogen fuel cell cars for the first time in the world," Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Kim Eok-jo was quoted as saying.
Yonhap said South Korea has 13 refueling stations for hydrogen.