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Stock Market Today - 3/16: Stocks Surge On Fed Decision, Russia-Ukraine Cease Fire Talks

Stocks finished higher Wednesday as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates for the first time since 2018 and talks between Russia and Ukraine show progress.

Updated at 4:20 pm EST

Stocks finished higher after the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates for the first time since 2018, while authorities in China pledged to support the Covid-hit economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 518 points, or 1.55%, to 34,063, while the S&P 500 added 2.24% to the previous session's gains following a weaker-than-expected reading of February retail sales. 

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite jumped 3.77% points.

The Federal Reserve lifted its benchmark Federal Funds Rate by 0.25%, to a target range of between 0.25% and 0.50%. The Fed also projected six more increases over the course of the year.

Stocks were given an added boost from a Financial Times of London report that said Kyiv was prepared to accept an agreement that would renounce its NATO ambitions, as well as the hosting of foreign military bases, in exchange for Russian troop withdrawal.

China Vice Premier Liu He said Beijing would roll out a series of measures in the coming weeks to support growth in the world's second largest economy, which is seeing a worrying spike in coronavirus infection, while pledging at the same time to ensure financial market stability.

The move powered China stocks sharply higher, and lifted the region-wide MSCI ex-Japan index from its nineteen-month low into a 4.2% gain that spilled over into the European session.

Hopes of near-term peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, where fighting has entered its 21st day, also lifted sentiment, with President Joe Biden pledging further relief to Kyiv as he prepared for meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels on March 24.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia has become "more realistic" in recent negotiations with Kyiv, and more talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were scheduled for later today.  Zelenskiy also delivered a virtual address to a joint session of Congress.

Investors are also tracking Russia's ability to pay around $117 million in interest on two dollar-denominated bonds, due today, following sanctions that have kept its central bank from tapping U.S. dollar reserves.

On Wall Street, benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields eased to 2.174%,

In terms of individual stocks, Live Nation Entertainment  (LYV)  shares ended slightly higher to $112 after Senate lawmakers urged the Department of Justice to probe the group's 'exorbitant fees' for concert and event tickets.

Starbucks  (SBUX)  shares surged 5.2% following news that former CEO Howard Schultz will return to the helm of the world's biggest coffee chain following the departure of current boss Kevin Johnson.

Kohl's  (KSS)  shares jumped 17.3% as activist investors prodded the board to consider a sale of the department store retailer and reports suggested Canada's Hudson's Bay company could be considering a takeover bid.

Tesla  (TSLA)  shares rose 4.8% despite concerns linked to the closure of its Shanghai gigafactory linked to the Chinese city's recent Covid outbreak.

Apple  (AAPL)  shares gained 2.9%, alongside a solid move higher for the Nasdaq, even as its biggest and most important supplier cautioned it may not have certainty on supply chain disruptions until later in the year.

Foxconn  (FXCNY) , the world's biggest electronics manufacturer, said sales for the coming year could fall by as much as 3%, or grow by 3%, owing to supply chain uncertainty and the impact of Covid infections and shutdowns in the Asia region.