Wall St. advances ahead of Fed policy meeting

NEW YORK (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, 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.

“There’s 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 rose 65.23 points, or 0.25 percent, to 25,914.1, the S&P 500 gained 10.46 points, or 0.37 percent, to 2,832.94 and the Nasdaq Composite 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, consumer discretionary and financial companies enjoying the biggest percentage gains.

The prospect of extended OPEC supply cuts sent crude prices 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.

“With markets close to all-time highs again, you see IPOs popping out of the woodwork,” Ghriskey said.

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

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.”

Apple Inc 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.

Shares of Apple supplier Synaptics Inc plummeted 22.6 percent after Mizuho downgraded it to “neutral” from “buy.”

Goldman Sachs and Citigroup 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. gained 1.7 percent, leading the consumer discretionary sector’s advance.

FILE PHOTO: A trader works on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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.

Reporting by Stephen Culp; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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