AP Business Writer
U.S. stocks are rising for the fourth day in a row. Major indexes shifted higher following the Federal Reserve's latest policy announcement. The central bank said it would cut another $10 billion from its monthly bond purchases, citing an improving U.S. job market.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 10 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,952 as of 3:34 p.m. Eastern Time. That's one point above its previous record high. The Dow Jones industrial average added 73 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,885. The Nasdaq composite gained 16 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,353.
FED SPEAKS: Following a two-day meeting of Federal Reserve policymakers, the central bank sharply cut its forecast for U.S. growth this year, citing a shrinking economy last quarter caused mostly by harsh weather. At the same time, the Fed barely increased its estimate of inflation despite signs that consumer price increases are picking up. Its benign inflation outlook suggests that the Fed doesn't feel rising pressure to raise short-term interest rates.
THE QUOTE: "The important thing is that the Federal Reserve has acknowledged that the unemployment rate seems to be coming down just a little bit faster than they expected," said David Kelly, chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds. "And they seem to be acknowledging some degree of inflation pressure."
BONDS: The Fed statement also appeared to whet investors' appetite for bonds. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.60 percent from 2.65 late Tuesday.
SECTOR VIEW: The 10 sectors in the S&P 500 notched gains, with utilities rising the most.
SHIP SHAPE: FedEx gained $8.38, or 6 percent, to $148.69 after the company reported that its quarterly profit rose as growth in online shopping gave its ground-shipping business a lift. Earnings and revenue both topped Wall Street's expectations.
BIDDING FOR BOTOX: Canada-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals has teamed up with Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management to mount a cash-and-stock bid for Allergan that values the Botox-maker at around $53 billion. Allergan says the latest takeover bid from the two companies is still too low. Allergan shares rose $1.67, or 1 percent, to $162.20. Valeant fell 29 cents to $128.81.
NEW BOSS: Air Products & Chemicals surged $8.82, or about 7.3 percent, to $130.46 after the specialty gas company announced it hired Rockwood's Seifi Ghasemi as its new chairman and CEO to replace its retiring chief executive.
UNAPPETIZING FORECAST: Food maker ConAgra slashed its fourth-quarter earnings outlook, citing slumping sales for its consumer foods segment, as well as weak profits for its private brands unit. The stock sank $2.49, or 7.6 percent, to $30.35.
REST UNEASY: Shares in La-Z-Boy slumped in early trading, a day after the furniture seller posted weaker than expected fourth-quarter earnings and lower sales. The stock shed $2.23, or 9 percent, to $22.61.
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