NEW YORK - U.S. stocks edged higher in late morning trading Thursday as investors remained cautious following comments a day earlier from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who suggested that stock prices might be overvalued.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 76 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,918 as of 11:34 a.m. ET. The Dow is coming off two days of losses. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose eight points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,088. The Nasdaq composite was up 22 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,942.
Stocks were stabilizing after some turbulence the day before. Indexes slumped after Yellen said market valuations were generally "quite high" in response to a question about risks to financial stability at a conference in Washington. Some market experts think the Fed will have to increase its short-term rate relatively soon to fight inflation.
"Yellen wasn't trying to spook the stock market, but was reminding traders that interest rates will not remain rock bottom forever," said David Madden, market analyst at IG. "The Fed is fully aware that ultra-low interest rates have been a huge factor behind U.S. equities hitting all-time highs this year, and the last thing the U.S. central bank wants is a crash when rates start to rise."
Britain's general election added a dose of uncertainty to markets. The election is not expected to deliver a majority for either of the big two political parties, the Conservatives or Labour. Days, if not weeks, of horse trading and uncertainty are anticipated and that could impact on British financial assets, notably the pound. The U.S. dollar gained against the pound and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index was down roughly 1 percent.
Whole Foods Markets lost $4.79, or 10 percent, to $42.95 after the company's reported sales growth for the first quarter that was weaker than analysts had expected.
Chinese online retailer Alibaba rose $5.86, or 7 percent, to $85.88. The company announced a new CEO, Daniel Zhang, and also said quarterly revenue rose 45 percent from a year earlier.
U.S. crude declined $1.51 to $59.42 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, fell $1.50 to $66.26 a barrel in London. That helped send energy stocks lower. All nine other industry sectors in the S&P 500 index rose.
The dollar was unchanged against the Japanese currency at 119.32 yen. The euro fell to $1.1275 from $1.1354. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.20 percent from 2.25 percent late Wednesday.