CORRECTED-US STOCKS-Wall St up as Ukraine worries lessen; Microsoft gains

Tue Mar 18, 2014 5:05pm EDT

(Corrects to show housing starts dipped from prior month, not rose)

* Putin tells parliament he does not want more of Ukraine

* Fed in view as two-day meeting begins

* Microsoft shares rally, near $40 for first time since 2000

* Indexes up: Dow 0.66 pct, S&P 0.75 pct, Nasdaq 1.24 pct

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, March 18 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks climbed for a second straight session on Tuesday, with the S&P within 1 percent of its intraday record after comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin relaxed investors' concerns that tensions over Ukraine could escalate.

Gains were broad, with nine of the ten primary S&P 500 sectors higher on the day. Technology shares, up 1.3 percent, led the advance, buoyed by a rally in Microsoft Corp .

Microsoft shares rose 4 percent to $39.58, the biggest daily advance for the software giant since November, and the move took the stock near $40 a share for the first time since July 2000. Late Monday, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the company may unveil an iPad version of the company's Office software suite on March 27.

In an address to the Russian parliament, Putin said Russia didn't want Ukraine to be divided further, and that he did not want to seize more of the country after approving plans to make Crimea part of Russia following a disputed referendum.

However, not all market participants were convinced the relief over Ukraine would continue.

"This is the triumph of hope over experience," said Brad McMillan, Chief Investment Officer for Commonwealth Financial in Waltham, Massachusetts. "I would say investors should be very cautious. This doesn't seem to be a market that is trading on longer-term expectations or possibilities."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 107.19 points or 0.66 percent, to 16,354.41, the S&P 500 gained 13.95 points or 0.75 percent, to 1,872.78 and the Nasdaq Composite added 53.093 points or 1.24 percent, to 4,333.042.

With the day's advance, the S&P 500 is less than 1 percent away from an all-time high hit earlier this month. Over the past two sessions, the benchmark index has gained about 1.7 percent.

Investors were looking ahead to the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy-setting committee, which began as scheduled at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Tuesday. The central bank is not expected to deviate from previously announced policy plans, but since the Fed's stimulus has kept a floor under equity prices, market participants will be attuned to any hint of a change.

In the latest economic data, consumer prices rose 0.1 percent in February, as expected, while housing starts fell modestly from the previous month.

In company news, Hertz Global Holdings Inc said it would spin off its equipment rental business for $2.5 billion and use part of the proceeds to fund a stock buyback program. Shares edged up 0.8 percent to $27.43.

Nasdaq OMX Group Inc lost 2.6 percent to $38.71. New York's attorney general urged U.S. stock exchanges and other venues to limit services that he said provided unfair advantages to high-frequency traders and undermined confidence in the markets.

In addition, the Wall Street Journal said Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd IPO-ALIB.N is leaning toward listing shares on IntercontinentalExchange Group's New York Stock Exchange.

GameStop Corp shares fell 3.5 percent to $38.34 as the worst performer on the S&P 500 after Wal-Mart Stores Inc said it would allow shoppers to trade in used video games for anything from groceries to gadgets. (Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak)

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California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

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