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US: Tech lifts stocks as market awaits Federal Reserve


[NEW YORK] Apple and some other technology stocks led US markets higher on Thursday ahead of next week's hotly anticipated Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 39.72 points (0.84 per cent) to 4,796.25.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 76.83 (0.47 per cent) to 16,330.40, while the broad-based S&P 500 added 10.25 (0.53 per cent) at 1,952.29.

Apple powered up 2.2 per cent a day after unveiling a spate of new and upgraded smartphone, tablet and television products. Biotech stocks like Gilead Sciences (+3.3 per cent) and Biogen (+3.0 per cent) were also big gainers.

Charlie Bilello of Pension Partners said investors increasingly believe the Fed is unlikely to make the leap to raise zero-level benchmark interest rates at its policy meeting next Wednesday and Thursday.

"There's increasing hope that they're not going to do anything," he said. "My view is that they're not data-dependent, they're stock market-dependent." Besides Apple, strong performers in the Dow included pharma giants Merck (+1.5 per cent) and Pfizer (+2.1 per cent).

ZS Pharma, a much smaller biopharmaceutical company, shot up 28.6 per cent after Bloomberg reported it had been approached by Switzerland-based Actelion in a deal that would value ZS at about US$2.5 billion.

Snack-food giant Mondelez International climbed 0.9 per cent as it confirmed that it expects organic net revenue growth of at least three percent in 2015. It also announced plans to lift the share of revenues from healthy snacks to 50 per cent by 2020.

Yoga-attire maker Lululemon Athletica tumbled 16.4 per cent after it projected 35-37 cents per share in third-quarter earnings, well below the 43 cents expected by Wall Street analysts.

Cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks rose 7.4 per cent as it forecast sales of US$280-$284 million for the current quarter, more than the US$269.7 million expected by analysts.

Trucking and logistics company Con-way shot up 33.8 per cent on news it will be acquired by rival XPO Logistics for US$3.0 billion. XPO fell 11.0 per cent.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.23 per cent from 2.19 per cent Wednesday, while the 30-year advanced to 2.99 per cent from 2.95 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.


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