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US: Nasdaq leads US stocks higher ahead of Federal Reserve


[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks advanced Monday ahead of a highly-anticipated Federal Reserve meeting, with a big gain in Facebook boosting the Nasdaq.

Facebook jumped 4.2 per cent on optimism over its strategy to launch a cryptocurrency payment programme on its platform. The plan is expected to be unveiled Tuesday.

Other large tech companies also advanced, including Apple, Amazon and Netflix, lifting the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index by 0.6 per cent to 7,845.02.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 0.1 per cent to 26,112.53, while the broad-based S&P 500 also added 0.1 per cent at 2,889.67.

Investors are increasingly confident that the Fed will cut interest rates in the near future in light of a weakening economic outlook due in part to the hit from the US-China trade war.

Although a rate cut is not expected this week, the US central bank could bolster expectations for lower rates later in the year when it concludes a two-day meeting on Wednesday.

In a fresh sign suggesting economic weakness, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that manufacturing activity in New York State took a record dive this month and fell into contraction.

However, some analysts cautioned that the New York figures could be an exception.

"It's a regional index. Let's see if it's backed up by other regional manufacturing data," said FTN Financial's Chris Low.

Among other individual stocks, Boeing led the Dow, winning 2.2 per cent following a report that US regulators could undertake flight trials of the grounded 737 Max as soon as this week.

Executives at the Paris Air Show reiterated apologies following two fatal crashes and said they were open to potentially rebranding the aircraft.

Array BioPharma surged 57 per cent as it agreed to be bought by Pfizer for US$11.4 billion. Pfizer climbed 0.3 per cent.

Sotheby's soared 58.6 per cent after announcing that the auction house would be acquired by French telecoms and media mogul Patrick Drahi for US$3.7 billion.

Among large tech companies, Amazon, Apple and Google parent Alphabet all gained more than 0.5 per cent, while Tesla jumped 4.7 per cent and Netflix climbed 3.2 per cent.