U.S. stocks rise as investors assess Fed rate path

NEW YORK, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Wall Street's major averages finished higher in volatile trading on Thursday as investors assessed the Federal Reserve's policy trajectory.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 75.14 points, or 0.23 percent, to 32,105.25. The S&P 500 added 11.75 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,948.72. The Nasdaq Composite Index increased 117.44 points, or 1.01 percent, to 11,787.4.

Nine of the 11 primary S&P 500 sectors ended in red, with energy and utilities down 1.36 percent and 1.01 percent, respectively, leading the laggards. Communication services and technology rallied 1.83 percent and 1.65 percent, respectively, the two best-performing groups.

The Fed hiked rates by 25 basis points on Wednesday, taking the federal funds rate to a range of 4.75 to 5 percent, in a bid to tame inflation despite financial turmoil following Silicon Valley Bank's collapse.

In the Fed's statement, the central bank said it remains "highly attentive to inflation risks," while acknowledging that banking issues could cause credit conditions to tighten and weigh on economic growth.

Its updated economic projections showed that a majority of Fed policymakers still expect a further 25 basis point rate hike by the end of the year, leaving estimates of the terminal rate at similar levels to the December estimate.

Futures markets have been pricing in rate cuts for later this year, but the Fed's economic projections do not show rates falling until 2024.

On the economic front, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell by 1,000 to 191,000 for the week ending March 18. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast new claims to total 198,000.

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