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Stocks Gain as Fed's Cautious Rates Wording Offsets Poor GDP Data

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks closed higher Wednesday afternoon after the Federal Reserve pledged to hold rates for a considerable time after it ends its economic stimulus program, offsetting weaker-than-expected economic growth data.

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  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.27% to 16,580.84 -- a record high closing -- while the S&P 500 increased 0.3% to 1,883.95. The Nasdaq climbed 0.27% to 4,114.56.
  • The Fed, as expected, announced a further $10 billion cut to its asset purchases, saying that economic activity has picked up following the slow winter months. However, the labor market picture remains mixed, prompting policymakers to vote in favor of maintaining low interest rates for a considerable time after the asset purchases end. Further measured steps are expected pending further information about the economy.
  • "It seemed pretty inconsequential, and if anything we're on autopilot," Chris Bouffard, chief investment officer at The Mutual Fund Store, said about the Fed statement in a phone interview. 
  • Economic growth for the first quarter was just 0.1%, down from 2.6% in the prior period. Rising personal consumption expenditure was partly offset by a fall in exports, private inventory investment, residential fixed investment and government spending. Expectations were for a result of 1.2%.
  • "We're more with consensus in thinking that gains were going to come in the second half of the year in terms of GDP growth," Bouffard, who manages 9 billion in assets, said.
  • The ADP private payroll report showed a 220,000 gain for April, beating expectations for 200,000 and up from 191,000 in March.
  • Russia is in recession, according to the International Monetary Fund, which cut its 2014 economic growth forecast for the nation to 0.2% on Wednesday. Russia has been slapped with several sanctions from the U.S. and E.U. after its involvement in the Ukraine crisis.
  • In international markets, Germany's DAX was rising 0.20% and the FTSE was 0.15% higher. The Hang Seng closed 1.42% lower while the Nikkei gained 0.11%. The Bank of Japan on Wednesday refrained from further stimulus but cut its growth estimate to 1.1% for the fiscal year ending in March 2015. Eurozone inflation rose to 0.7% in April, recovering from a four-year low of 0.5% in March.
  • Twitter (TWTR - Get Report) shares tumbled 9.1% Wednesday after the company said its first-quarter loss widened to 23 cents a share from 21 cents a share a year earlier. Twitter reported average monthly active users of 255 million at the end of March, falling short of the million monthly users forecast. eBay (EBAY - Get Report) shares were 5% lower after it reported a first-quarter loss of $1.82 a share due to a tax charge late Tuesday.
  • Pepco (POM) jumped 17.4% after Exelon (EXC) agreed to buy the utility company. Time Warner (TWX) added 2.7% after beating first-quarter earnings estimates by 3 cents at 91 cents a share.
  • Wells Fargo (WFC) gained 0.34% after boosting its quarterly common stock dividend to 35 cents a share.
  • Energizer (ENR) surged 14.3% after announcing plans to separate into two publicly traded companies. The separation is expected to create one company specializing in household products and the other in personal care.

-- By Andrea Tse, Jane Searle and Joe Deaux in New York

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Chart of I:DJI
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NASDAQ 4,725.6390 -37.5850 -0.79%

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