US STOCKS-Wall St extends gains as Fed leaves stimulus in place

Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:23pm EDT

* Federal Reserve sticks to stimulus in statement
    * Cyprus banking crisis a reminder of global risks
    * Homebuilders' stocks jump after Lennar earnings
    * Dow up 0.5 pct; S&P 500 up 0.7 pct; Nasdaq up 0.8 pct


    By Caroline Valetkevitch
    NEW YORK, March 20 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks added to gains
after the Federal Reserve said it was pressing forward with
aggressive efforts to stimulate the economy.
     In their statement, Fed officials said unemployment remains
too high and noted "restrictive" fiscal policy.
    "I wasn't expecting a lot from the Fed, in terms of the
statement or actions. We've had a volatile week. The Fed was not
going to want to rock the boat much," said Paul Zemsky, head of
asset allocation at ING Investment Management in New York.
    "It would be too destabilizing in a time we've just had a
destabilizing European effect."
     Cypriot leaders held crisis talks on Wednesday to avoid a
financial meltdown after the country's parliament rejected a tax
on bank deposits proposed over the weekend by European Union
officials. Investors fear a collapse of the
banking system in Cyprus will tighten credit across Europe and
become another hurdle in the region's bumpy road out of economic
crisis.      
    The Dow Jones industrial average was up 69.47 points,
or 0.48 percent, at 14,525.20. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
 was up 11.06 points, or 0.71 percent, at 1,559.40. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 24.47 points, or 0.76
percent, at 3,253.57.
    After the Fed's statement, the Dow set an intraday record
high at 14,546.82 - surpassing a previous record session high
reached before the policy decision was released. 
    The housing sector's stocks ranked among the best performers
after Lennar Corp reported a first-quarter profit well
above analysts' expectations as lower interest rates and rising
rents increased home sales.
    Lennar's stock jumped 5.7 percent to $43.78. The PHLX
housing sector index shot up 3 percent.
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