US STOCKS-Hopes of Fed standing pat on rate hikes drive Wall Street higher

  • Reuters
  • Stock Market News
US STOCKS-Hopes of Fed standing pat on rate hikes drive Wall Street higher
Credit: © Reuters.

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* Consumer discretionary sector top boost to S&P 500

* Dow crosses 26,000 points mark, first time since March 4

* Defensive utilities, consumer staples, real estate lag

* Federal Reserve kicks off two-day policy meeting

* Indexes rise: Dow 0.46 pct, S&P 0.33 pct, Nasdaq 0.31 pct (Changes comment, adds detail, updates prices)

By Medha Singh

March 19 (Reuters) - Wall Street's main indexes climbed on Tuesday, as investors hoped for a more accommodative policy stance at the end of the Federal Reserve's two-day meeting this week.

A flurry of downbeat economic data this month has supported market expectations that the Fed may reinforce a halt to further interest rates hikes. The meeting concludes its deliberations with a news conference on Wednesday.

Of particular interest to investors is the individual interest rate forecasts of policymakers, as well as any details on plans to reduce Fed's holdings in bonds. seeing stocks run up a little bit in anticipation of the Fed announcing no hike in 2019 and a curtailment of the balance sheet runoff," said Bryan Reilly, managing director at CIBC U.S. Private Wealth Management in Boston.

The consumer discretionary sector .SPLRCD provided the biggest boost to the benchmark S&P 500 .SPX as Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O rose 1.9 percent.

Also supporting markets were technology .SPLRCT stocks.

Rate-sensitive financial stocks .SPSY rose 0.24 percent, boosted by the big U.S. lenders. The bank sub-sector .SPXBK gained 0.26 percent, up for the fifth straight session.

At 11:15 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 119.12 points, or 0.46 percent, at 26,033.22, crossing the 26,000-point mark for the first time since March 4.

The S&P 500 .SPX was up 9.47 points, or 0.33 percent, at 2,842.41 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 23.66 points, or 0.31 percent, at 7,738.13.

Among the 11 major sectors, defensive utilities .SPLRCU and real estate .SPLRCR were the only two in the red while consumer staples .SPLRCS was flat.

Optimism that the Fed will remain less aggressive in raising rates and hopes of a resolution to a bitter trade dispute between the U.S. and China helped the markets claw back most of their losses from late last year.

The benchmark S&P 500 .SPX is at a five-month high and is just 3.1 percent away from its record closing high in September.

Nvidia Corp NVDA.O rose 3.7 percent and boosted the Philadelphia SE chipmakers index .SOX by 1.19 percent after the chip designer partnered with Softbank Group Corp 9984.T and LG Uplus Corp 032640.KS to deploy cloud gaming servers in Japan and Korea. Corp FOXA.O dropped 3.5 percent after its debut on the Nasdaq, marking a new phase for billionaire Rupert Murdoch's media business after the $71 billion sale of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's TFCFA.O film and television assets to Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS ) Co DIS.N . issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.27-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.01-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 31 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 48 new highs and 20 new lows.

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