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Stocks Close Higher as Voters Head to Polls

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks finished higher on Tuesday as Wall Street awaits congressional election results later tonight that most observers expect to show a big victory for the Republican party.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 64 points, or 0.6% to 11,188. The S&P 500 added 9 points, or 0.8%, to close at 1193 and the Nasdaq rose 28 points, or 1.1%, to 2533.

From a sector standpoint, a weakening of the greenback bolstered demand for energy, basic materials and utilities shares.

As voters head to the polling booths, the expectation is that the Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives, ending the control of Congress that Democrats have enjoyed since 2008. Assuming the Senate stays in the hands of the Democrats, the third year of President Barack Obama's term could see plenty of legislative gridlock, a situation that has historically been positive for Corporate America.

With no major economic reports on Tuesday, investors were pacing themselves for the Federal Reserve's two-day policy-making meeting which began today. The Federal Open Market Committee will make a statement on Wednesday afternoon. The market has been anticipating the announcement of additional quantitative easing measures at the conclusion of the FOMC meeting since late summer.

On Tuesday, the Reserve Bank of Australia unexpectedly raised rates by 0.25 percentage point to 4.75%, tightening policy for the first time in six months, to pre-emptively reduce inflation pressures. The Reserve Bank of India also increased the lending rate and the borrowing rate by a quarter of a percentage point each to 6.25% and 5.25%, respectively.

The U.S. dollar traded lower against a basket of currencies with the dollar index down by 0.7%.

"There's a lot of waiting today," said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald. "There's no economic data so the market is focused on the election results and the FOMC meeting. The broad-based move up that you're seeing today is largely based on the dollar, but also, the market likes certainty and it's pleased that there wasn't anything disruptive over the weekend in terms of the Republicans taking the House."

Pado said the market also appears fairly certain that the FOMC's expected second stimulus announcement on Wednesday afternoon won't hold too many surprises.

"Expectations for QE2 started at $300 billion, then we had some weak data and the number edged up to $500 billion. When there's been talk of anything lower, no Fed official has come out and upset the apple cart. Usually if the Fed doesn't like what Wall Street is talking about, they come out and say something to let people know that they're looking in the wrong direction," Pado said, adding that all indications from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke suggest that the Fed is ready to act to strengthen the recovery in a meaningful way. "So that's giving some assurance to the market that they're on the right track and that things will do as planned."
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