Dow, S&P 500 set record highs after Fed keeps stimulus

NEW YORK (AFP) - US stocks soared on Wednesday to all-time closing highs after the Federal Reserve left its huge monetary stimulus in place.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 147.21 (0.95 per cent) to 15,676.94, 18 points above the previous record set on August 2.

The broad-based S&P 500 surged 20.76 (1.22 per cent) to 1,725.52, besting the previous high, also hit on Aug 2, by nearly 16 points.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 37.94 (1.01 per cent) to 3,783.64.

All three indices had been trading lower before the Fed's policy statement at 1800 GMT.

The Fed surprised markets by deciding not to dial back its US$85 billion (S$106 billion) per month bond-buying programme. Many market-watchers had expected the Fed to trim the program by US$10-US$15 billion per month.

The Fed cut its economic growth forecast for this year and next and expressed concern that the recent sharp rise in interest rates had already slowed the economy.

"The committee sees the downside risks to the outlook for the economy and the labour market as having diminished, on net, since last fall," it said at the end of a two-day monetary policy meeting.

"But the tightening of financial conditions observed in recent months, if sustained, could slow the pace of improvement in the economy and labour market." Besides vaulting stocks higher, the Fed news sent the dollar lower against other major currencies and pushed US Treasury bond yields lower.

"The market is celebrating the fact that the Fed is sticking to data dependency and that real yields are coming down," said Art Hogan, head of product strategy at Lazard Capital Markets.

Home builders, including PulteGroup (up 5.5 per cent) and Lennar (up 6.5 per cent), advanced in anticipation that lower interest rates will support the housing sector.

Utilities, which are known for offering a generous dividend, rose as bond yields dropped. Southern Company gained 3.6 per cent, while American Electric Power rose 3.7 per cent.

Mining companies like Newmont (up 8.2 per cent) and Goldcorp (up 8.2 per cent) gained as copper and gold prices rallied on the Fed news.

Apple tacked on 2.1 per cent after putting on the market its new mobile operating system, called iOS 7.

Priceline became the first equity in the S&P 500 to trade above US$1,000 when it spiked to US$1,001 in late-session trade. Priceline closed at US$995.09, up 2.6 per cent.

Bond prices tumbled. The yield on the 10-year Treasury sank to 2.71 per cent from 2.85 per cent on Tuesday, while the 30-year fell to 3.75 per cent from 3.84 per cent. Prices and yields move inversely.