US stocks surged for a second straight session on Tuesday, extending the best two-day gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in five weeks, after comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin soothed anxiety that tensions over Ukraine could escalate.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 89 points or 0.55%, to end at 16,336. The S&P 500 rose 13 points or 0.72%, to finish at 1,872. The Nasdaq Composite added 53 points or 1.25%, to close at 4,333.
In an address to the Russian parliament, Putin said Russia didn't want Ukraine to be divided further, and that he did not want to seize more of the country after approving plans to make Crimea part of Russia following a disputed referendum.
Meanwhile, a Commerce Department report showed housing starts were little changed in February after declining less than previously estimated a month earlier. Separate data indicated the cost of living was little changed in February, showing inflation remains well below the Federal Reserve’s goal.
Investors were looking ahead to the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the US Federal Reserve's policy-setting committee, which began as scheduled at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
Technology sector led the gains yesterday, buoyed by a rally in Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O). Microsoft shares jumped 4%.
After the closing bell, Oracle Corp (ORCL.N) shares slid 4.9% after the company said new software sales and Internet-based software subscriptions in its fiscal third quarter rose 4% from a year earlier.
Hertz Global Holdings Inc (HTZ.N) slipped 0.5% in regular session after saying it would spin off its equipment rental business for $2.5 billion and use part of the proceeds to fund a stock-buyback programme.
GameStop Corp (GME.N) shares fell 3.4% after Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) said it would allow shoppers to trade in used video games for anything from groceries to gadgets.
In Asia, shares declined on Wednesday as investors weighed the prospect of further sanctions against Russia and awaited the Federal Reserve’s policy statement.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.3% to 135 as of 11:31 a.m. in Tokyo. Japan’s Topix index slipped 0.4%, erasing gains of as much as 0.6%. South Korea’s Kospi index swung between gains and losses. Singapore’s Straits Times Index fell 0.6%, while Taiwan’s Taiex index lost 0.5%.
China’s Shanghai Composite decreased 0.8%, while Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index was little changed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.1%, while New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index increased 0.4%.