Bank stocks rose slightly Thursday after reassuring words from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

At a congressional hearing, Bernanke reiterated that the economy "continues to require the support of accommodative monetary policies" and said the central bank will tighten credit "at the appropriate time," though he noted that housing and employment remain weak.

The KBW Bank Index closed at 52.43, up 0.17%, as share prices of three of the four biggest banks rose.

Citigroup Inc. rose 2.89% on news that the government plans to sell its stake in the company in the near future. Bank of America Corp. rose 0.97%, Wells Fargo & Co. rose 0.65% and JPMorgan Chase & Co. finished the day exactly where it started, at $44.94 a share.

Regionals did not fare as well. SunTrust Banks Inc. fell 2.53% and Regions Financial Corp. fell 2.04%.

The broader markets gave back some of their gains late in the afternoon after reaching new highs earlier in the day. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.05% and the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.17%.

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