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Strong gains at Wall Street

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Shares of Apple help propel the Dow

U.S. stocks closed higher on Thursday, 21 March 2019 on the back of a rally in the technology sector, while shares of Apple surged, helping to propel the Dow. The market's strong upside momentum comes a day after the Federal Reserve signaled that it was unlikely to raise interest rates this year amid worries over slowing economic growth.

The Dow rose 216.84 points, or 0.8%, to 25,962.51 while the S&P 500 index climbed 30.65 points, or 1.1%, to 2,854.88 and the Nasdaq Composite Index added 109.99 points, or 1.4%, to 7,838.96. Both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 logged their best gains since March 11.

Ten of the 11 S&P 500 sectors finished higher, led by information technology, real estate and consumer discretionary sectors. Conversely, the financial sector ended in the red pressured by concerns that the recent compression in spreads will lead to weak net interest margins for lenders.

Apple shares were up 3.7% after Needham upgraded the stock to strong buy.

The dollar, as measured by the ICE U.S. Dollar Index was up 0.8%. A stronger dollar can dull investment interest in dollar-denominated prices of gold from investors using other currencies, and vice versa.

Among economic reports expected for the day, the Labor Department said the number of laid-off workers who applied for first-time unemployment benefits fell by 9,000 in the week ended March 16 to 221,000, a one-month low. Market had forecast claims to total 225,000.

Separately, the Philadelphia Fed's business activity index rebounded in March to a seasonally adjusted reading of 13.7 from -4.1 the previous month. A reading above zero indicates improving conditions. Market had forecast a reading of 3. ALso, the Conference Board's leading economic index rose 0.2% in February, its first uptick since September.

Crude oil futures pulled back on Thursday, 21 March 2019 from the mulitmonth highs they saw a day earlier, with the U.S. benchmark settling below the key $60 mark as global crude prices suffered their first loss in four sessions. Prices for both benchmark had climbed by more than 1% Wednesday after U.S. government data showed an unexpectedly large fall in domestic crude inventories.

On its first full session as a front-month contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 25 cents, or 0.4%, to settle at $59.98 a barrel after tapping a high of $60.39. May Brent crude lost 64 cents, or 0.9%, to $67.86 a barrel on ICE Futures Group.

U.S. benchmark WTI remains up by nearly 2% for the week and losses for crude Thursday were modest. Oil may have seen some support from risk-on sentiment, with U.S. equities headed broadly higher as investors digested the conclusion of a Federal Reserve meeting a day earlier that saw policy makers signal they would deliver no rate increases in 2019. The central bank, however, cited concerns over global growth prospects, which could threaten energy demand.

Bullion prices ended higher on Thursday, 21 march 2019 at Comex. Gold futures settled at a one-week high on Thursday, buoyed by the Federal Reserve's dovish policy statement, though strength in the dollar kept prices in check. The dollar declined shortly after the news, but recovered its post-Fed loss and moved sharply higher in Thursday dealings. The precious metals that are priced in the U.S. unit continued to rise, but finished off the session's highs.

Gold for April delivery rose $5.60, or 0.4%, to settle at $1,307.30 an ounce on Comex, after trading as high as $1,320.20. May silver added 0.8% to $15.437 an ounce.

U.S. Treasuries closed roughly unchanged after declining noticeably following Wednesday's FOMC policy decision. The 2-yr yield and the 10-yr yield remained at 2.40% and 2.54%, respectively, although the 10-yr yield kissed 2.50% at its best level in morning action.

Looking ahead, investors will receive Existing Home Sales for February, Wholesale Inventories for January, and the Treasury Budget for February on Friday.

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(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, March 22 2019. 10:36 IST