March 18, 2019 / 3:27 PM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-Tech boosts Wall Street; Boeing keeps Dow in check

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* Boeing slides on Ethiopia crash data scrutiny

* Indexes up: Dow 0.05 pct, S&P 0.38 pct, Nasdaq 0.57 pct

* Apple rises after launching new iPad

* Facebook drops as brokerage Needham moves to sidelines

* S&P, Nasdaq at five-month highs (Changes comment, adds details, updates prices)

By Medha Singh and Shreyashi Sanyal

March 18 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq on Monday extended last week’s gains, lifted by technology and financial stocks, as investors waited for the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting later this week for further clues on the pace of interest rate hikes.

At the central bank’s two-day policy meeting which starts on Tuesday, the Fed is widely expected to stick to its pledge of a “patient” approach to monetary policy.

Investors will be looking for whether policymakers will have sufficiently lowered their interest rate forecasts to more closely align to the Fed’s “dot plot”, a diagram showing individual policymakers’ rate views for the next three years.

Also expected are more details on a plan to stop cutting the Fed’s holdings of nearly $3.8 trillion in bonds.

“The Fed meeting this week is a clear catalyst for markets. A lot of it has to do with expectations of the Fed lowering the dot plot and also some more clarity on the balance sheet,” said Jon Adams, senior investment strategist for BMO Global Asset Management in Chicago.

“A Fed that is on hold will really help boost profit expectations and margins.”

Keeping the Dow’s gains in check was Boeing Co, which fell 2.1 percent after Ethiopia said an initial analysis of black boxes showed “clear similarities” in the March 10 plane crash with October’s accident in Indonesia.

Concerns over the safety of Boeing’s money-spinning MAX 8s led to the aircraft being grounded worldwide last week and shaved off more than 10 percent from the market value of the world’s largest planemaker.

Apple Inc rose 1 percent after launching a new 10.5-inch iPad Air in a surprise move on Monday. The iPhone-maker’s shares boosted the tech sector, which along with the financial sector offered the biggest support to the S&P 500.

Facebook Inc dropped 2.3 percent after a top-rated analyst cut rating on the company’s stock to “hold” and dragged the communication services sector 0.53 percent lower, the most among the 11 major S&P sectors.

At 11:01 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 13.03 points, or 0.05 percent, at 25,861.90. The S&P 500 was up 10.79 points, or 0.38 percent, at 2,833.27 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 43.77 points, or 0.57 percent, at 7,732.29.

A slew of downbeat economic data last week validated the Fed’s decision to remain less aggressive on raising rates.

The dovish stance along with hopes that the United States and China will reach an agreement to end their bitter trade dispute boosted the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to five-month highs on Friday and notch their best weekly gain this year.

The benchmark index now remains just 3.4 percent away from its all-time closing high in September.

Edwards Lifesciences Corp jumped 6.9 percent, the most among S&P stocks, after trial results showed that the company’s non-invasive heart valve replacement system was superior to surgery.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 3.09-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 2.39-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 26 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 67 new highs and 15 new lows. (Reporting by Medha Singh and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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