Stocks surged Thursday after the chief of the Federal Reserve sent signals that the central bank wasn't in a hurry to stop helping the economy. When the markets closed, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index was at a record high. Other U.S. indexes were also up, including the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which rose nearly 170 points to a record 15,460.92.
Update at 5 p.m. ET: We've updated some figures in this post to reflect the markets' closing.
The Federal Reserve must ensure the U.S. job market is in full health before it begins to ease its aggressive bond-purchasing program, its top officials said at the Fed's latest policy meeting. This afternoon, the central bank released the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting of June 18 and 19.
In that session, the officials cited a moderate pace of economic expansion, but said it was coupled with an unemployment rate that remains high.
Those Chinese figures helped Asian markets to take a big tumble today, as did yesterday's comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. He said the Fed will likely begin slowing down its economic stimulus later this year. The Fed's massive bond buying program - which is a major part of that stimulus - is seen as a big reason behind recent rallies in the financial market.