NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Investors were making last-minute buys on Wall Street ahead of a decision from the Federal Reserve on interest rates Thursday afternoon.

The S&P 500 was up 0.36%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.31%, and the Nasdaq gained 0.53%. Benchmark indexes had been struggling for direction earlier in the day. 

Fed members will conclude their two-day meeting this afternoon in which they analyzed recent economic data and determined whether the U.S. economy was strong enough to withstand a move off of crises-level interest rates. An announcement is due at 2 p.m. EDT. If the Fed decides to raise rates, it will be the first time since 2006.

This meeting "is the most widely debated, dissected, analyzed and now traded capital markets event in my 25 years on the Street," said Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at Convergex, a global brokerage company based in New York.

But the latest read on business conditions in the Philadelphia area could give the Fed reason to delay a hike. The Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index showed a surprise drop into negative territory in September, joining the Empire State manufacturing index in a contraction. The measure fell to negative 6 from positive 8.3 in August. Economists had expected a reading of 5.

Weekly jobless claims fell 11,000 to 264,000 in the week ended Sept. 12, the latest sign the U.S. labor market is tightening. Economists had expected the number of new applications for unemployment benefits to remain flat at 275,000. The new reading is the lowest level since mid-July and the second-lowest level since September 1974.

Housing starts fell 3% to 1.13 million units in August, according to the latest data on construction in the housing market. Economists had expected the measure to drop to 1.16 million.

TheStreet Recommends

American Airlines (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report suffered from nationwide ground stops on Thursday afternoon as the company suffered from computer issues. The FAA database indicated the stoppage would last until at least 2:30 p.m. EDT. 

Oracle (ORCL) - Get Oracle Corporation Report shares were down 3% after the enterprise-software company reported a mixed quarter. Oracle earned 53 cents a share in its recent quarter, a penny more than estimates, while revenue slipped 1.7% to $8.45 billion and fell short of expectations. The revenue miss was attributed to currency exchange.

French cable company Altice agreed to buy Cablevision (CVC) for almost $18 billion as it pushes to become one of the largest telecom and cable companies in the U.S. The deal would create the fourth-largest cable operator in the country. The deal for $34.90 a share is a 22% premium to Cablevision's closing price on Wednesday.

General Motors (GM) - Get General Motors Company (GM) Report has agreed to pay $900 to settle a criminal investigation into a defect of its ignition switch that was tied to 124 deaths, according to Reuters. The automaker will see the charges dismissed if it complies with the terms of the agreement.

Expedia (EXPE) - Get Expedia Group, Inc. Report moved higher after it won approval from U.S. regulators to proceed with its acquisition of competitor Orbitz (OWW) . The approval did not require Expedia to unload any of its assets.

Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report reportedly acquired Mapsense, a start-up that develops analytical tools for location-tagged data. The deal was reportedly worth between $25 million to $30 million, according to Re/code.

Rite Aid (RAD) - Get Rite Aid Corporation Report dropped more than 5% after a mixed quarter. The pharmacy chain earned 2 cents a share, 2 cents below estimates, while revenue jumped 18% to $7.66 billion and beat forecasts by $90 million. Same-store sales rose 2.1%.

Under Armour (UA) - Get Under Armour, Inc. Class C Report has extended its sponsorship deal with NBA MVP Stephen Curry through to 2024. The clothing company also announced that it has granted Curry an equity stake. The company has set a $7.5 billion revenue target for 2018, more than double full-year sales in fiscal 2014.