US stocks finish with sharp gains

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished Wednesday with sharp gains following mixed retail sector earnings and Federal Reserve policy meeting minutes that confirmed the Fed's stated policy course.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 158.75 points (0.97 per cent) to 16,533.06.

The broad-based S&P 500 jumped 15.20 (0.81 per cent) to 1,888.03, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 34.65 (0.85 per cent) to 4,131.54.

Jewelry giant Tiffany & Co. bolted 9.2 per cent higher on a strong earnings report, while home-improvement retailer Lowe's missed expectations, falling 0.2 per cent.

The minutes of the Fed's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee meeting in April showed policy makers discussing how to manage the impact of an interest rate hike they expect to implement only in mid-2015.

Brent Schutte, market strategist at BMO Global Asset, said stocks accelerated their gains after the FOMC minutes did not imply a faster time-table to raising rates.

But, he added, "It feels like it's a bounce-back" after Tuesday's losses.

Target slashed its 2014 earnings forecast from US$3.85-US$4.15 to US$3.60-US$3.95 citing, among other factors, expenses related to a giant data breach this winter. Shares rose 1.0 per cent.

Online shopping site eBay fell 0.2 per cent after revealing that cyberattackers broke into its database of customer names and passwords in what could be one of the biggest breaches of its kind.

The company urged customers to change passwords and protect their personal and financial information.

Netflix announced a big push in Europe, unveiling plans to offer television and film streaming in France, Germany and four other countries. Shares rose 5.1 per cent.

AIG advanced 1.9 per cent as Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock. Goldman expects the insurer to outperform other large financial institutions in generating capital, Barron's reported.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.54 per cent from 2.51 per cent Tuesday, while the 30-year increased to 3.42 per cent from 3.38 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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