USA stocks close higher ahead as Fed meeting starts

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While the Nasdaq edged down 5.28 points or 0.1% to 6,456.04, the Dow rose 41.79 points or 0.2% to 22,412.59 and the S&P 500 inched up 1.59 points or 0.1% to 2,508.24.

Wall Street moved higher, paring some gains after rallying to record highs amid optimism about the United States economic outlook and corporate profits, as investors eyed a meeting by the Federal Reserve which is set to tighten monetary policy. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite in China closed 0.28 percent higher, while the Nikkei in Japan closed up by 0.05 percent. Wednesday was the 37th record close for the S&P 500 this year.

The Fed kept its targeted federal-funds rate between 1% to 1.25%, and said the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma isn't likely to materially alter the course of the economy over the medium term, underscoring the central bank's determination to normalize rate policy.

In the bond market, treasuries came under pressure on the heels of the announcement from the Fed.

"If I'd be watching anything, it would be primarily with regard to their plans to raise rates in December, which now the market has a 50-50 odds on", said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

The Fed's interest-rate projections, known as the so-called dot plot, suggests an interest-rate hike in December and three more in 2018.

Several central-bank officials already wanted to start winding down the Fed's portfolio of government securities in July, but the majority wanted to hold until a later date.

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With the focus on the Fed, traders shrugged off a report from the National Association of Realtors showing an unexpected decrease in existing home sales in the month of August.

Nike, a Dow component, fell 1.68 percent after a slew of price target cuts by brokerages on concerns about intensifying competition from Adidas.

See:MarketWatch's economic calendar (http://www.marketwatch.com/economy-politics/calendars/economic).

General Mills was down 4.80 percent after its quarterly profit missed estimates, hurt by lower sales of its yogurts and cereals in North America.

Significant strength was also visible among biotechnology stocks, as reflected by the 1.6% gain posted by the NYSE Arca Biotechnology Index.

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) slipped 0.7%, even as the software major late Tuesday increased its dividend to 42 cents a share (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/microsoft-hikes-quarterly-dividend-announces-changes-to-board-of-directors-2017-09-19). While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down by 0.2 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 are both almost flat. Also, refineries were still restarting after recent storm activity.US crude fell 1.06 percent to $49.38 per barrel and Brent was last at $54.74, down 0.92 percent on the day.

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