U.S. indices were gaining during midday trading Friday after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the case for rate hike is growing stronger.
"Indeed, in light of the continued solid performance of the labor market and our outlook for economic activity and inflation, I believe the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months," said Yellen during her speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The central bank chair did not specify whether a hike would come at the Fed's next meeting, which is set for the end of September, or at its meetings in November or December.
In stock news, Herbalife (HLF) shares were taking a hit during midday trading after reports that billionaire investor Carl Icahn was looking to sell his 18% stake in the global nutrition company. Icahn discussed selling his stake to Pershing Square Capital Management, the Wall Street Journal first reported. On CNBC Friday morning, Pershing Square CEO Bill Ackman said that he refused at first but later said that he would consider buying a few million shares, if Jefferies could find a block of buyers. But Ackman added that if Icahn sells, he thinks it will accelerate the demise of the company.
Shares of Apple (AAPL) were dropping slightly after the company issued a global security update to fix a major security flaw in its iPhones and iPads. Human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor's phone was the target of the thwarted text message attack. Mansoor's phone received a text message that included a link, which would have installed software that can remotely take over a fully up-to-date iPhone 6, Reuters reported. But instead of opening the link, Mansoor sent the message to researchers at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab.
"Once infected, Mansoor's phone would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhone's camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device," Citizen Lab wrote in a report.
Since being alerted to the security breach, Apple has developed a fix and released an automatic update to all iPhone 6 owners. Apple is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS portfolio.
Meanwhile, ULTA Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance (ULTA) shares were down by more than 6% despite top- and bottom-line beats in its latest earnings report. The beauty retailer posted earnings of $1.43 per share on revenue of $1.07 billion, which topped analysts' expectations of $1.39 per share on revenue of $1.06 billion.
Deutsche Bank analyst Mike Baker increased the price target on ULTA to $280 from $225. But Baker noted that expectations were "so high" that inline to slightly better results probably wouldn't be a major catalyst for the stock.Finally, shares of Tesla Motors ( TSLA) were declining slightly after the company won U.S. antitrust approval to buy SolarCity ( SCTY) . The $2.6 billion deal was announced at the beginning of the month. In July, Musk unveiled his " Master Plan, Part Deux," in which he said that by acquiring the solar panel installer, Tesla can create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product "that just works." The $2.6 billion deal was officially announced on Aug. 1, and Tesla expects the transaction to close in the fourth quarter of 2016.