Fed's stand boosts stocks

Agency to keep aggressive stance, says cyprus not a risk

By Daniel Wagner

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 20 2013 9:09 p.m. MDT

A television screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shows the news conference of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Wednesday, March 20, 2013. In a statement after a two-day meeting, the Fed stood by its plan to keep short-term rates at record lows at least until unemployment falls to 6.5 percent, as long as the inflation outlook remains mild. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Associated Press

Fear of a revived debt crisis in Europe faded from the stock market Wednesday, freeing the Dow Jones industrial average to touch an all-time high.

After dipping Monday on concerns that Cyprus would become the latest European nation to stir fiscal chaos, the Dow posted its second-straight day of gains.

Stocks traded steadily higher for most of the day and spiked after the Federal Reserve said it will continue with aggressive measures to boost the economy. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that Cyprus crisis posed no major risk to the U.S. economy.

The Dow was up 44 points shortly before the Fed announcement. It rose as much as 91 points shortly after the Fed released its policy statement at 2 p.m., touching an all-time high of 14,546 at 2:25 p.m.

The Fed said the U.S. economy has strengthened after pausing late last year, but still needs support from the central bank. The Fed plans to continue buying $85 billion in bonds per month indefinitely to keep long-term borrowing costs down and spur investment. It also said it would keep short-term interest rates at record lows, at least until unemployment falls to 6.5 percent.

Unemployment fell last month to 7.7 percent, the lowest in four years. The Fed doesn't expect the rate to reach its target until 2015.

The Dow closed up 55.91 points Wednesday, or 0.4 percent, to 14,511.73.

Stock markets were little changed Tuesday, despite rising uncertainty in Cyprus. Anyone watching "would conclude that the market decided Cyprus is overblown as an issue," said Brian Gendreau, a strategist at Cetera Financial Group.

Gendreau said traders had been concerned about what precedent might be set by Cyprus' efforts to avoid a crisis. A plan to seize money from bank savings accounts was met with outrage and was rejected Tuesday by the island nation's parliament.

The nation's unusual status as an international financial haven makes it an unlikely roadmap for future rescue efforts.

"I think the market's going to start looking at other things," he said.

Cyprus was negotiating with international lenders, seeking support for its ailing financial system. Without a bailout deal, Cyprus' banks could collapse, devastating the country's economy and potentially forcing it to exit the euro currency group. That could roil global financial markets.

Attention had returned to Europe this week after several months' respite, during which traders focused on the strengthening U.S. economy and drove stocks to multiyear highs.

Over the previous two years, concerns about a breakup of the euro currency often dominated trading of U.S. stocks. The jitters receded after central banks provided enough extra cash to help prop up Europe's commercial banks.

Adobe soared after reporting strong first-quarter earnings. The company said it has picked up more subscriptions to online versions of its software products. The stock rose $1.71, or 4.2 percent, to $42.46.

In other trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10.37 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,558.71. The Nasdaq composite index rose 25.09, or 0.8 percent, to 3,254.19.

The S&P 500 is just six points below its all-time high of 1,565, reached in October 2007. It is up 9.3 percent so far this year.

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