Big profits from Apple and a promise from the Federal Reserve to keep rock-bottom rates for at least two more years powered the U.S. stock market higher on Wednesday.
Buying picked up after the Federal Reserve said it would keep interest rates near zero through at least 2014, which was longer than many investors anticipated. The actions were taken as a sign of the central bank's commitment to boost a sluggish economic recovery.
What caught the market off guard was obviously the fact they are going to keep rates lower for longer, said John Canally, investment strategist at LPL Financial in Boston.
This statement (on an inflation target) moves the ball slightly down the field for possible more quantitative easing later, Canally said, referring to a type of monetary stimulus.
The Fed also took an historic step of setting an inflation target of 2 percent, which brings the U.S. central bank in line with many of the world's other central banks that use an explicit benchmark for policy.
Apple was a standout in what has otherwise been a fairly lackluster earnings season. So far, 57 percent of companies reporting have beaten forecasts, while at this stage in past earnings seasons, the beat rate averaged 70 percent.
Apple shares hit an all-time high of $454.45 on results issued after Tuesday's market close that sailed past expectations. The move higher pushed Apple's market capitalization above that of Exxon Mobil
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 83.10 points, or 0.66 percent, at 12,758.85. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 11.41 points, or 0.87 percent, at 1,326.06. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> ended up 31.67 points, or 1.14 percent, at 2,818.31.
In other earnings news, video rental company Netflix Inc
Earlier in regular trading session, both United Technologies Corp
United Tech shares closed down 0.2 percent at $77.65 and Rockwell dropped 2.9 percent to $79.42.
Another diversified manufacturer, Textron Inc
Greece was hoping to reach a deal with its bondholders as talks were set to resume this week to avoid a messy default. Such an outcome could threaten the stability of other debt-laden members of the euro zone as well as the global economy.
About 7.9 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, compared with this year's average of about 6.7 billion shares.
On the NYSE, advancing stocks beat declining ones by ratio of 3-to-1. On the Nasdaq, advancers beat decliners by a ratio of 2-to-1.
(Reporting By Angela Moon; additional reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Kenneth Barry)