The S&P 500 index is up 7.33 points or 0.67 percent in early afternoon trading. The basic materials sector leads the rally, with the Dow Jones U.S. Basic Materials Index is up 1.3 percent and the Dow Jones U.S. Oil & Gas Index up 1 percent.

AK Steel (NYSE:AKS), Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC), AES (NYSE:AES), Noble Energy (NYSE:NBL), and Hess (NYSE:HESE), all commodities-related companies, are up at least 2 percent.

Fears that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would not be confirmed for a second term declined over the weekend as key figures confirmed their support for the central bank chief.

President Barack Obama called members of the Senate on Saturday and was assured that Bernanke will have enough votes. Bernanke also gained the support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Although McConnell did not disclose which way he will vote, he stated that he thinks Bernanke will have bipartisan support and be confirmed.

Such a statement from the Senate Minority Leader may also hint that Republicans may not use a filibuster to delay Bernanke’s confirmation, should the number of votes favoring his additional term fall from 51 to 59.

Under Bernanke’s watch, the Fed has kept interest rates at record lows. Bernanke’s policies have also pumped $1.5 trillion into the economy, according to CNN’s bailout tracker.

The stock market dipped in morning trading briefly after a disappointing existing home sales report was published at 10 a.m. in New York. December sales were 5.45 million, down 16.7 percent from November.

Among the biggest losers on the S&P 500 index are were various credit card companies and regional banks. Capital One (NYSE:COF) is down 2.9 percent and Suntrust (NYSE:STI) is down 3.42 percent.