Blue-chip stocks are headed higher this afternoon following yesterday's comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. With roughly an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is up by 135 points, or 0.88%.
If you heard the news about the employment market today, you'd be excused for wondering why stocks are surging. Data released by the Department of Labor this morning showed that 360,000 people filed for unemployment benefits last week. This equated to an increase of 16,000 applications compared to the week before and marked the seventh-worst reading this year.
However, in this topsy-turvy world of ours, bad news can easily transform into good news. And thus was the case with the Department of Labor's data release -- coupled, that is, with comments yesterday by Bernanke.
Fear that the central bank will reduce its support for the economy over the coming months was abated on Wednesday when the Fed chairman made it clear that the economy is still in need of "highly accommodative monetary policy for the foreseeable future."
"The market is no longer worried about [the Fed] taking the punch bowl away," noted a market strategist to The Wall Street Journal. "What we've come to expect from the Fed from the last four of five years is still intact for the foreseeable future."
On the heels of Bernanke's remarks, all 30 of the Dow's components are trading higher at the time of writing. The best performer of the bunch is Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) , whose shares are surging 3%. As my colleague Dan Dzombak discussed earlier, the chip maker has been under siege of late thanks to predictions of waning demand in the personal-computer market, Intel's bread and butter, as well as downgrades from at least two prominent Wall Street firms.
Close on Intel's heels are shares of Disney (NYSE: DIS ) , up by 2.6% in mid-afternoon trading. The entertainment giant has been under the microscope ever since last weekend's release of The Lone Ranger, which turned out to be a major flop at the box office. But while some are predicting that Disney could lose upward of $100 million on the film, there's nevertheless reason to believe that the implications for its parent company have been overhyped. "For as badly as The Long Ranger is performing at the box office," fellow Fool Tim Beyers observed, "the company's Buena Vista Pictures is earning as much as ever."