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US: Wall St opens higher as banks, discretionary stocks rise

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[NEW YORK] US stocks rose on Wednesday, extending gains into the second trading day of the new year, helped by advances in consumer discretionary and bank stocks.

Investors are awaiting the minutes of the Federal Reserve's Dec 13-14 meeting in which it raised interest rates. The central bank had cited strength in the labor market and a slight uptick in inflation among reasons for its move. Investors will pore over the minutes to assess policymakers'view on the economy and the incoming administration.

With just over two weeks left before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, investors are waiting for the finer details of his proposed policies such as tax cuts and higher fiscal spending.

The S&P 500 financial sector rose 0.5 per cent and provided the biggest boost to the broader index. Big US banks are set on getting Congress loosen some banking regulations, seeing an opportunity in the incoming Republican-led administration.

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The consumer discretionary index got a lift from Comcast, which rose 1 percent after Macquarie raised its price target to $76.

At 9:45 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 37.61 points, or 0.19 per cent, at 19,919.37, the S&P 500 was up 7.36 points, or 0.32 per cent, at 2,265.19 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 21.93 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 5,451.02.

Nine of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher, led by gains in healthcare and utilities.