* Fed to consider hikes on “meeting-by-meeting” basis - Yellen
* Home Depot helps lift Dow, S&P after earnings
* S&P/Case-Shiller edges higher in December
* Toll Brothers rises after results
* Indexes up: Dow 0.35 pct, S&P 0.14 pct, Nasdaq 0.01 pct (Adds Yellen testimony, data)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Feb 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks advanced modestly on Tuesday, with the Dow and S&P 500 at intraday records, as investors attempted to interpret testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.
As investors sought insight on the possible timing of an interest rate hike, Yellen told a congressional committee on Tuesday the Fed is preparing to consider hikes “on a meeting by meeting basis,” in a subtle change of emphasis in how the Fed has been speaking about its plans for the first rate increase since 2006.
“You see so much conflicting data coming about, between the minutes and public statements that have been made,” said Dan Farley, regional investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.
“They are really trying to walk that fine line between not spooking the market and giving themselves the flexibility they need to be a little bit more data-dependent and figure out, really what does this mean?”
The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of home prices in 20 metropolitan areas gained 4.5 percent in December above the 4.3 percent forecast and 4.3 percent in November.
Other data showed the U.S. services sector expanded in February at its fastest pace since October, according to a preliminary reading from financial data firm Markit. U.S. consumer confidence fell more than expected in February from a multi-year high, according to industry group the Conference Board.
Home Depot shares gained 4.3 percent to $117.11 as the biggest boost to the Dow and S&P 500. The home improvement retailer reported a better-than-expected rise in quarterly same-store sales and said it would buy back $18 billion of its shares.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 62.93 points, or 0.35 percent, to 18,179.77, the S&P 500 gained 3.05 points, or 0.14 percent, to 2,112.71 and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.63 points, or 0.01 percent, to 4,961.60.
JPMorgan Chase climbed 2.5 percent to $60.84 after the bank said in presentations at its annual investor day that it aims to save about $1.4 billion in annual expenses by cutting costs and simplifying businesses. It forecast about 10 percent core loan growth in 2015.
Comcast Corp, the largest U.S. cable operator, posted fourth-quarter revenue that marginally beat estimates and boosted its buyback program to $10 billion. Its shares rose 1.7 percent to $59.18.
Toll Brothers climbed 4.3 percent to 38.70, helping to send the PHLX housing index 1 percent higher. The largest U.S. luxury homebuilder reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit and raised the low end of its full-year home delivery forecast.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,713 to 1,149, for a 1.49-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,567 issues rose and 954 fell, a 1.64-to-1 ratio.
The S&P 500 posted 54 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 93 new highs and 14 new lows. (Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)