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TheStreet Open House

Stocks Post Solid Gains on Apple, Fed


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks finished higher Wednesday with the Nasdaq outperforming the broad market because of a massive post-earnings rally in Apple (AAPL).

The results of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting caused some fluctuation in the major U.S. equity indices but there wasn't a dramatic reaction to the news that the central bank was leaving its interest rate target intact. The Fed also tweaked the language of its policy statement and adjusted some of its economic projection.

Chairman Ben Bernanke combated that perception to some extent in his press conference though, once again leaving the door for more quantitative easing ever so slightly ajar during the question-and-answer session.

"Bernanke went out of his way at least four times to say that QE3 is still on the table, so I think we can take from all of this that QE3 is still on the table," said John Canally, strategist at LPL Financial. "And that's not by mistake, Bernanke is prepped ad nauseum for this thing so he didn't say that for no reason."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 89 points, or 0.7%, to close at 13,091, not far off the session's high of 13,105. The S&P 500 rose 19 points, or 1.4%, to finish at 1391.

The Nasdaq soared 68 points, or 2.3%, to settle at 3030, thanks largely to Apple's outstanding quarterly earnings report as the company sold more than 35 million iPhones, far exceeding consensus expectations.

The Fed dominated the afternoon headlines though. The central bank raised its GDP forecast for 2012 to a growth range of 2.4-to-2.9% from a prior projection of 2.2-to-2.7%. It also gave a more optimistic outlook for the jobs market, estimating the unemployment rate moving down to 7.8-8% this year from the expectation of 8-8.2% it gave in January, and boosted its inflation outlook slightly, going to an increase of 1.9-2% from a range of 1.4-1.8%.

There was a more hawkish tone to the proceedings as seven members of the Fed's rate-setting arm now expect a tightening of interest rates in 2014, up from five in January but this adjustment was offset by Bernanke's comments about providing more monetary stimulus if necessary.

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