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Dow Hits Five-Year High on Bernanke Comments, Data

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Major U.S. stock averages surged Wednesday, with the Dow within striking distance from its all-time high, on a raft of good economic data and as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled ongoing support for accommodative monetary policies.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 175.24 points, or 1.26%, at 14,075, just off its all-time closing high of 14,164. The blue-chip index rose by triple digits for a second day in a row.

The S&P 500 jumped 19.05 points, or 1.27%, to close at 1,516. The Nasdaq increased 32.61 points, or 1.04%, to finish at 3,162.26.

Technology shares were among the top percentage performers in the broader market even as investors monitored developments out of Apple's(AAPL) annual shareholders' meeting.

CEO Tim Cook said that innovation is the best way to add value for shareholders. He also said that Apple is actively thinking about returning cash to shareholders. The investment community has been concerned about what the iPhone maker planned to do with its massive cash hoard of more than $137 billion.

During the meeting, Cook once again dismissed a lawsuit by Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn as a "silly" sideshow. Shares dropped 0.98% in volatile trading as Cook addressed stakeholders.

The markets continued to pay close attention to Bernanke's comments as he continued his semi-annual testimony before Congress.

Speaking before the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday, Bernanke said, though, that the Fed alone couldn't bear the entire burden of spurring the economic recovery, and urged lawmakers to find alternatives to the sequestration ahead of a March 1 deadline.

On Wednesday, Bernanke gave his semi-annual testimony before the House Financial Services Committee in Washington. He reiterated his continued support for easy monetary policy and once again voiced his concerns about the looming spending cuts in Washington.

Gold for April delivery fell $19.80 to settle at $1,595.70 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while April crude oil futures were up 22 cents to $92.85 a barrel.

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The benchmark 10-year Treasury was shedding 5/32, diluting the yield to 1.901%. The dollar was falling 0.37%, according to the U.S. dollar index .

The Census Bureau reported that durable goods orders fell 5.2% in January after rising 3.7% in December. Excluding transportation, orders rose 1.9% after a 1% increase the prior month. Economists were expecting durable goods orders to fall 3.5% in January and the number to rise 0.2% excluding the transportation component.

The National Association of Realtors said its pending home sales index rose 4.5% in January after falling 1.9% the previous month. Economists were forecasting a rise of 1%.

"Between this report and the upside surprises in the housing market data released yesterday (prices for December and new home sales for January), housing market activity appears to have ended 2012 on a positive note and is off to a strong start in 2013," said Cooper Howes, U.S, economist for Barclays.