US stocks rise ahead of Federal Reserve meeting

US stocks rise ahead of Federal Reserve policy meeting; weak FedEx earns show economy's strain

Associated Press
Stock market falls, hurt by technology companies
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In this Tuesday, March 19, 2013, photo, Trader Craig Spector works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. World stock markets moved higher Wednesday March 20, 2013 as investors set aside their apprehension over the financial fate of Cyprus and looked ahead to the Federal Reserve for its assessment of the U.S. economy. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

U.S. stocks rose strongly Wednesday ahead of a decision by the Federal Reserve about whether to push ahead with aggressive measures to boost the economy.

Concern eased about a possible financial crisis in Cyprus. The Mediterranean nation needs a bailout to avoid defaulting on its financial obligations.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 56 points, or 0.4 percent, to 14,512 as of 11:55 a.m. Eastern time.

Indexes closed narrowly mixed 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. But 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.

The Fed will issue a policy statement and economic forecasts after it wraps up a two-day meeting Wednesday afternoon. The economic recovery is broadening, but Chairman Ben Bernanke says he doesn't want to endanger the momentum as the global economic climate remains uncertain.

Highlighting the choppy nature of the recovery, FedEx reported sharply lower quarterly earnings and says it will cut capacity to Asia with so many businesses tightening their belts and using ground transport. FedEx is seen as a bellwether for the broader economy because air shipments are tied closely to the pace of business activity.

FedEx sank $6.21, or 6 percent, to $100.25.

Adobe soared after reporting strong first-quarter earnings. The company, which makes Adobe Reader and Photoshop, said it was picking up more subscriptions to online versions of its software products. The stock rose $1.53, or 4 percent, to $42.28.

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

Fear about Cyprus dominated trading Monday, when the Dow lost 62 points; and Tuesday, when indexes closed mixed. Attention had returned to Europe after several months' respite, during which traders focused on the strengthening U.S. economy and drove stocks to multi-year 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.

In other trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose eight points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,556. The Nasdaq composite index rose 15, or 0.5 percent, to 3,244.

Among the other stocks making big moves:

— General Mills rose $1.22, or 3 percent, to $47.64 after saying its fiscal third-quarter profit rose 2 percent. The food company is benefiting from recent acquisitions.

— Williams-Sonoma soared after the home goods retailer said its fourth-quarter net income jumped 9 percent and beat expectations. The stock rose $4.94, or 11 percent, to $50.15.

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Daniel Wagner can be reached at www.twitter.com/wagnerreports .

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