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US: Wall Street up as Fed raises rates but stays course

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[NEW YORK] US stocks rose sharply on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the second time in three months, as expected.

The Fed, which raised its target rate by 25 basis points, or a quarter of a per centage point, to between 0.75 and one per cent, did not however flag any plan to accelerate the pace of monetary tightening, a concern that had lingered among some market participants.

Markets were expecting the Fed's decision and traders had priced in more than a 90 per cent chance of a quarter-point rate increase, according to federal funds futures.

"People were thinking the Fed might be more aggressive, so the fact that they weren't means more complacency and a continued course," said Eric Schoenstein, co-portfolio manager of the Jensen Quality Growth Fund in Portland, Oregon.

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Market voices on:

"The statement was not as hawkish as it might have been."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 112.73 points, or 0.54 per cent, to close at 20,950.1, the S&P 500 gained 19.81 points, or 0.84 per cent, to 2,385.26 and the Nasdaq Composite added 43.23 points, or 0.74 per cent, to 5,900.05.

The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks rose 1.5 per cent, while financials on the S&P 500 were the worst-performing sector.

US retail sales recorded their smallest gain in six months in February, setting US gross domestic product on track to grow at a 0.8 per cent annualised pace in the first quarter, according to the Atlanta Fed's latest forecast.

Energy stocks boosted the S&P 500 as oil prices rose for the first time in more than a week on a surprise drawdown in US crude inventories. US crude gained 2.7 per cent to US$49.01 per barrel and Brent added 2.1 per cent to US$51.99.

Exxon shares rose 1.2 per cent and Chevron added 1.4 per cent.

Apple was up 1.1 per cent at US$140.46 after RBC raised its price target on the stock.

Twitter was down 1.9 per cent at US$15.03 after a number of prominent accounts on the microblogging website were hacked.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 6.84-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.28-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 74 new 52-week highs and two new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 125 new highs and 42 new lows.

About 7.82 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, higher than the 6.98 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.

REUTERS

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