Investors wanted less uncertainty and the Federal Reserve delivered on Wednesday.
U.S. stocks shot above 1% this afternoon after the central bank's October meeting minutes upped the chances of a December rate hike and gave investors, and businesses, the ability to plan for the inevitable move.
The S&P 500 rose 1.6%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.4%, and the Nasdaq climbed 1.8%.
"The US central bank is strongly considering a December rate hike, dependent of course on the incoming economic data ," said Matt Weller, senior market analyst at Forex.com. "It's worth noting that the monetary policy meeting was conducted before the release of the blowout US October jobs report, so even with some disappointing second-tier releases over the last two weeks, a December rate hike remains the Fed's base case."
Three Fed officials backed a rate hike sooner than later in separate speeches Wednesday morning. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, a voting member on the Fed's policy committee, said that international market volatility has calmed since the October meeting and that continued improvement in the labor market supported a rate hike.
The housing market showed a rare sign of weakness in October after construction on new U.S. homes slid 11% to an annual rate of 1.06 million, according to the Commerce Department. The drop marked the lowest level of housing starts since early spring. Economists had expected starts to drop to 1.15 million. However, permits for new construction climbed 4.1% to 1.15 million, signaling that demand will pick up in coming months.
In earnings news, Target ( TGT - Get Report) shares fell 4.3% despite the retailer reporting its fourth straight quarter of traffic growth. The company earned an adjusted 86 cents a share, in line with estimates, while overall sales jumped 2.1% to $17.61 billion.
Staples ( SPLS) fell 2.7% after a disappointing third quarter, including a sales decline of more than 6%. The company said North American offline and online sales tumbled nearly 8%, while comparable-store sales slid 2%.
Norfolk Southern ( NSC - Get Report) climbed 6.4% after agreeing to "carefully evaluate" Canadian Pacific Railway's ( CP - Get Report) $28.4 billion bid. Norfolk Southern warned that a deal would face intense regulatory scrutiny.
Qualcomm (QCOM - Get Report) sank to a four-year low after South Korea accused the company of breaking antitrust laws. The government's competition regulator proposed fining the chipmaker for the way in which it licenses its technology. Qualcomm said the legal fight could be a lengthy one.
Sprint (S - Get Report) shares dropped after the telecom said customers who switched from Verizon (VZ - Get Report) , AT&T (T - Get Report) and T-Mobile (TMUS - Get Report) would pay just half of their existing plan. Investors feared the holiday promotions would eat into profits in the middle of the number four U.S. carrier's turnaround plan.
Mobile payments processing company Square priced its IPO at $9 a share in a closely watched float. The company, run by Twitter (TWTR - Get Report) CEO Jack Dorsey, is one of the few private companies valued at $1 billion or more. Square had previously set its IPO price range between $11 and $13 a share, valuing the company at up to $4.2 billion. Trading on the New York Stock Exchange is scheduled for Thursday.