Market Minute: Stocks Set to Rally on Fed Comments; Yum Tops Forecasts


Stocks are set to rally following comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and KFC continues to struggle. Those and more are what's in business news Thursday.

The Dow industrials (^DJI) fell 8 points Wednesday, snapping a four-day winning streak. But the S&P 500 (^GPSC) eked out a tiny gain and the Nasdaq (^IXIC) rose 16 points. The Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks has set all-time highs for three straight sessions.

Fed Chairman Bernanke says the central bank doesn't plan to raise short-term interest rates for quite a while, even after the unemployment rate falls to the 6.5 percent target rate.

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Yum Brands (YUM) -- owner of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell -- reports earnings fell for a third straight quarter, but still topped expectations. China was once again the main culprit as KFC continued to suffer from lingering safety issues involving a chicken supplier, and a separate outbreak of bird flu. But the company issued an upbeat outlook.

Chevron's (CVX) oil production dropped in the second quarter. Even though oil prices are soaring right now, the much lower prices a few months ago are likely to hurt the company's earnings. And analysts say Exxon Mobil (XOM) and other oil giants could suffer from similar problems.

PC sales have now declined for a record five straight quarters. A pair of research firms also say Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) has lost its crown as the world's top seller to China's Lenovo. The big problem is that more and more people are using tablets and smartphones, instead of PCs.

Some leading retailers are reporting sales for June. Costco's (COST) same-store sales increased a better-than-expected 6 percent, but Zumiez (ZUMZ) fell short of expectations.

Walmart Stores (WMT) is backing away from a plan to build three stores in the District of Columbia. The city council passed a bill late Wednesday requiring the retailer to pay its workers a starting wage that is considerably higher than the city's minimum wage.

And Apollo Group (APOL) is set to rally after its for-profit University of Phoenix unit won accreditation for an additional two years.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg