U.S. stocks soared Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average surging more than 300 points, after the U.S. Federal Reserve replaced the phrase "considerable time" in its policy statement with "patient," signaling the central bank could raise interest rates sometime next year.

Following the Fed’s announcement, The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which measures the share prices of 30 large industrial companies, soared over 300 points, or over 1 percent, at 17,371.98; the S&P 500 Index, which tracks the share prices of the nation's 500 largest publicly traded companies, gained 26.55 points, or 1.34 percent, at 1,999.29. The Nasdaq Composite added 66.40 points, or 1.47 percent, to 4,614.67.

The Fed wrapped up its final two-day policy meeting of the year in the midst of a currency crisis in Russia. Most economists had expected the Federal Open Market Committee, the Federal Reserve’s board that determines the direction of monetary policy, to change its forward guidance somewhat and remove “considerable time” from its statement. But the central bank also introduced another key word "patient," as it readies next year to raise interest rates, which are at historic lows. “Based on its current assessment, the Committee judges that it can be patient in beginning to normalize the stance of monetary policy,” the Federal Reserve said in its monetary policy statement Wednesday.

The Fed had to start laying the groundwork for eventual interest rate hikes, according to Greg McBride, chief financial analyst Bankrate.com. “Now is definitely time to do it because the U.S. economic fundamentals are solid,” McBride said. “If the Fed leaves the 'considerable time' phrase in and doesn’t start laying the ground works for rate hikes now and then have to ramp up the rhetoric later, that’s even more unsettling to the financial markets.”

Following the FOMC’s statement, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen held a news conference at 2:30 p.m. EST., saying the Fed is unlikely to start the process for raising interest rates for "at least the next couple of meetings."