The broad indexes all saw 1% gains, as the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee began its two days of meetings, with investors expecting the central bank to announce on Wednesday plans to continue its large monthly purchases of long-term U.S. Treasury securities, as the central bank works to keep long-term rates at historically low levels.
While the Fed is expected to continue is purchases of long-term Treasuries at a pace of $45 billion per month, however, there could be some upward pressure on short-term interest rates if, as expected, the central bank stocks making equal monthly purchases of short-term Treasuries in 2013.
Investors also cheered the announcement by the Center for European Economic Research that the ZEW economic sentiment indicator for Germany rose to 6.9 points in December, increasing from the previous level of negative 15.7, for the indicator's first positive number since May.The Center for European Economic Research said that "the indicator's rise shows that the financial market experts expect the economic activity to stabilize until early summer 2013," and that "positive U.S. economic data may have contributed to this assessment." Financial stocks trailed the broad indexes, with the KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) up slightly to close at 49.51, while the KBW Insurance Index was flat, at 126.99. Shares of HSBC (HBC) rose 1% to close at $51.84, after the bank reached an agreement with the Department of Justice and U.S. regulators to pay a whopping $1.9 billion to settle charges that it facilitated illegal transfers to Iran and the laundering of money by Mexican drug cartels. The deal included a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department, under which HSBC will be "subject to strict oversight by a corporate monitor for the next five years," according to Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who also said during a press conference that HSBC "must further enhance its compliance structure." HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver said in a company statement that "we accept responsibility for our past mistakes. We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again. The HSBC of today is a fundamentally different organization from the one that made those mistakes."