By Carolina Mandl and Sinéad Carew
(Reuters) - Wall Street's main indexes ended Wednesday with solid gains after the Federal Reserve's November meeting minutes showed interest rate hikes may slow soon.
A "substantial majority" of policymakers agreed it would "likely soon be appropriate" to slow the pace of interest rate hikes, the minutes showed.
"What equity markets needed to see for the recent strength to continue was what we got from the minutes," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.
Since the Fed's last meeting on Nov. 1-2, investors have been more optimistic that price pressures have started to ease, meaning smaller rate hikes could curtail inflation.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 95.96 points, or 0.28%, to 34,194.06, the S&P 500 gained 23.68 points, or 0.59%, at 4,027.26 and the Nasdaq Composite added 110.91 points, or 0.99%, at 11,285.32.
Trading volume was thin ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, with the U.S. stock market open for a half-session on Friday.
Earlier on Wednesday, a mixed bag of economic data led to a drop in yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, helping drive stocks up.
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week and U.S. business activity contracted for a fifth straight month in November. Consumer sentiment ticked higher and home sales rose above expectations.
"What I think you're seeing is renewed investor enthusiasm fueled by those who see that beautiful light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel. And there has been so much money on the sidelines that is rushing back into the markets and waiting to get back into the action," said portfolio manager Moez Kassam of Anson Funds.
Deere & Co soared 5.03% after the farm equipment maker reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit.
Nordstrom Inc (NYSE: JWN ) fell 4.24% as the fashion retailer cut its profit forecast amid steep markdowns to attract inflation-wary customers.
Volume on U.S. exchanges was 9.25 billion shares, compared with the 11.6 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a 1.97-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.61-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 21 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq Composite recorded 97 new highs and 126 new lows.
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