US STOCKS-Wall St advances ahead of Fed policy meeting

  • Reuters
  • Stock Market News
US STOCKS-Wall St advances ahead of Fed policy meeting
Credit: © Reuters.

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* Boeing (NYSE: BA ) extends losses as Ethiopia crash data scrutinized

* Facebook drops on regulatory fears, broker downgrade

* Apple rises after new iPad launch

* Goldman, Citi gain on news of German bank deal

* Indexes up: Dow 0.25 pct, S&P 500 0.37 pct, Nasdaq 0.34 pct (Updates to late market close)

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, March 18 (Reuters) - Banks and tech helped lead Wall Street higher on Monday, while Boeing and Facebook were a drag and investors eyed this week's U.S. Federal Reserve meeting for affirmation of its commitment to "patient" monetary policy.

Following the S&P 500's best week since November, the benchmark index ended the session about 3.3 percent below its all-time high reached in September. All three major U.S. indexes closed in positive territory.

The Dow's fourth straight advance ran into headwinds from Boeing Co BA.N , which fell 1.8 percent as the company faced increasing scrutiny following a fatal crash in Ethiopia on March 10. The drop in shares of the world's largest plane maker extended last week's 10.3 percent decline and was the heaviest weight on the blue-chip index.

The Fed's two-day policy meeting begins on Tuesday. Investors anticipate the U.S. central bank will reinforce its dovish approach toward further interest rate hikes. always trepidation going into a Fed meeting," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York. "Anything that gives visibility to the potential for future rate hikes is going to keep people on the sidelines."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 65.23 points, or 0.25 percent, to 25,914.1, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 10.46 points, or 0.37 percent, to 2,832.94 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 25.95 points, or 0.34 percent, to 7,714.48.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, eight closed in the black, with energy .SPNY , consumer discretionary .SPLRCD and financial .SPSY companies enjoying the biggest percentage gains.

The prospect of extended OPEC supply cuts sent crude prices LCOc1 to four-month highs, which boosted energy companies, while news of upcoming initial public offerings (IPOs), notably from ride-hailing service Lyft, sent the banking sector higher. markets close to all-time highs again, you see IPOs popping out of the woodwork," Ghriskey said.

The communications services sector .SPLRCL was the largest percentage loser, weighed down by Facebook Inc FB.O .

Facebook shares were down 3.4 percent after the European Commission's deputy head said "at some point, we will have to regulate" big tech and social media companies to protect citizens and a top-rated Needham analyst downgraded the stock to "hold" from "buy." Inc AAPL.O surprised investors with the launch of new iPad devices ahead of the company's expected March 25 launch of a content streaming service. The stock closed up 1.0 percent. of Apple supplier Synaptics Inc SYNA.O plummeted 22.6 percent after Mizuho downgraded it to "neutral" from "buy." Sachs GS.N and Citigroup (NYSE: C ) C.N advanced 2.1 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively, on a report that the banks are helping Germany's two biggest lenders with a potential merger worth more than $28 billion. AMZN.O gained 1.7 percent, leading the consumer discretionary sector's .SPLRCD advance.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.19-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.65-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 27 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 82 new highs and 29 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.84 billion shares, compared with the 7.54 billion-share average over the last 20 trading days.

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