U.S. stocks extended their gains on Thursday following a rally in the previous session as investors assessed the path laid out by the Federal Reserve for interest rate hikes, while closely tracking the Russia-Ukraine peace talks. Technology fell the most after advancing on Wednesday. The banks index tumbled 1.2%, weighed down by a 2.2% fall in Wells Fargo. The U.S. Treasury yield curve rebounded, after earlier reaching its flattest level in more than two years.
The U.S. central bank on Wednesday raised interest rates by 25 basis points as expected and forecast an aggressive plan to push borrowing costs to restrictive levels next year. Policymakers also trimmed their economic growth projections for the year. Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors rose. Energy gained 3.2%, followed by defensive utilities, healthcare and real estate sectors.
"The market is really still trying to get a sense of what this latest news out of the Fed means for the future. It right now is telling us that it still has faith in the Fed's ability to make a soft landing on the economy," said Adam Phillips, managing director of portfolio strategy at EP Wealth Advisors. Meanwhile, Western officials said Ukraine and Russia are taking peace talks seriously but a very big gap remains between the two sides, adding Russian President Vladimir Putin did not seem in the mood to compromise.
Signs of progress in talks to end what Russia calls "a special military operation" had helped global stocks surge this week. "There is mass confusion right now, which is leading to the increased volatility in a choppy market," said Dennis Dick, proprietary trader at Bright Trading LLC in Las Vegas.
"We don't know what the next headline coming out of the Ukraine is, we don't know how that resolves and we don't know how the market and economy is going to handle the rate hikes. Oil and commodity price inflation is a whole another worry and concern." Oil prices hit $105 amid warnings of supply shortages due to a shut-in of Russian oil supplies.
The CBOE volatility index, also known as Wall Street's fear gauge, fell after rising earlier in the session. At 12:23 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 147.09 points, or 0.43%, at 34,210.19, the S&P 500 was up 20.16 points, or 0.46%, at 4,378.02, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 36.97 points, or 0.28%, at 13,473.52.
Meanwhile, data showed weekly jobless claims fell last week as demand for labor remained strong, positioning the economy for another month of solid job gains. Ralph Lauren Corp gained 3.1% after J.P. Morgan upgraded the affordable luxury apparel maker's stock to "overweight" from "neutral". Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.99-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 2.17-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 10 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 30 new highs and 44 new lows.
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