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Stock Market Today - 3/15: Stocks End Higher As Fading Inflation Offsets Russia, China, Fed Risk

The Dow ends up nearly 600 points as investors react to a softer-than-expected factory inflation reading.

Updated at 4:15 pm EST

Stocks ended firmly higher Tuesday, while oil prices fell to a two-week low and Treasury bond yields climbed, as investors navigated a series of headline risks linked to China's Covid outbreak, an intensifying war in Ukraine and the start of the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which eked out a mere 1 point gain in the last session, finished up 599 points, or 1.82%, to 33,544, while the S&P 500, which is down 11.45% for the year, gained 2.14%.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite, which closed just few points shy of sliding into bear market territory in the previous session, gained 2.92% even as benchmark 2-year Treasury note yields held at $1.851% in early New York trading.

Markets got an early boost, however, from a softer-than-expected reading of factory gate inflation for the month of February, added to pre-market gains after the core reading rose 0.8%, just shy of analysts' forecasts of a 0.9% advance.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in China doubled on Monday, taking the overall tally past 120,000, as officials moved to add further business and travel restrictions in the world's second-largest economy as part of its 'zero Covid' policy.

The outlook clouded an otherwise solid set of industrial and consumer data and hammered domestic stocks, with the sentiment spilling over into the European session.

Russia's intensifying war on Ukraine added to broader market concerns, with reports of explosions in and around the capital Kyiv -- including four deaths confirmed by the city's mayor -- following an overnight attack on a TV tower in the country's norther region. U.S. officials remain concerned that Moscow is seeking financial and military assistance from China, while the UK has warned the Russia may be contemplating the use of chemical weapons in the weeks ahead.

The headline risk, in fact, has global fund managers expecting a bear market for stocks this year, according to a closely-tracked survey from Bank of America, with allocations to global equities at the lowest levels since May 2020.

Closer to home, the start of the Fed's policy meeting, which is nearly certain to end tomorrow with a 25 basis point rate hike, has investors looking for clues as to how the central bank will manage the myriad risks linked to growth and inflation heading into the second half of the year.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields rose to 2.151%, while WTI crude futures for April delivery fell another $7.77 per barrel to $95.24 in early New York trading.

Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Free Report shares gained 4.63% after the clean-energy carmaker raised prices on its best-selling models in the U.S. and China for the second time in a week.

U.S. prices for all of Tesla's cars were bumped higher overnight, with the Model 3 cost increasing by around $3,500. Price hikes in China, meanwhile, will see the Model 3 increase by a total of 28,000 yuan, or around $4,400, compared to a week ago.

AMC Entertainment  (AMC) - Get Free Report shares, meanwhile, gained 6.9% after the world's second-largest movie theatre chain, and meme stock favorite, unveiled a $28 million investment in a Nevada gold mine.

United Airlines  (UAL) - Get Free Report shares powered higher Tuesday, rising 9.2% while rival U.S. carriers posted solid gains, after the group said bookings and traffic has improved notably since the start of the year amid the easing of pandemic era restricts on business and travel.

Delta Air Lines  (DAL) - Get Free Report shares, meanwhile, jumped 8.7% after is boosted its current quarter revenue forecast to be about 78% of pre-pandemic levels, up from its prior estimate of between 72% and 76%.

Delta said its fuel costs would average $2.80 per gallon in the first quarter, up from its January forecast of between $2.35 and $2.50.

Southwest Airlines  (LUV) - Get Free Report shares were up 4.9% after it lowered its estimate for revenue declines from 2019 levels to around 8% to 10%. The group had previously forecast a fall of between 10% and 15%.

American Airlines  (AAL) - Get Free Report gained 9.3% after it trimmed its revenue decline forecast to around 17% from 2019 levels, compared to its prior forecast of between 20% and 22%.