By Kate Gibson
U.S. stocks rose Wednesday, with the Dow industrials extending their longest winning run since December, amid ongoing cheer over the Federal Reserve's decision to hold rates steady, which should keep banks' borrowing costs at record lows for much of the year.
"There's no question the Fed being easy continues to feed this. Easy money is creating massive misallocations everywhere, and that party can continue. As long as you have Ben the bartender manning the tap, anything is possible," said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) added 58.10 points, or 0.4%, to 10,745.08, with 23 of its 30 components moving higher.
The blue chips on Tuesday finished higher for a sixth straight session, its longest stretch of gains since Dec. 28, 2009, and the index's highest close since Jan. 19.
Trading at its highest level since October 2008, the S&P 500 Index (SPX) rose 7.47 points, or 0.6%, to 1,166.93. Energy and financial shares paced sector gains among the index's 10 industry groups.
Lincoln National Corp. (LNC) led financial gains after its upgrade by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. .
Advancers beat decliners nearly 3 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where composite volume stood at 3.4 billion shares in afternoon trade.
Year-to-date, daily volume in 2010 has averaged about 4.7 billion, still below last year's daily average of just under 5.5 billion. In 2009, the daily average came to 4.9 billion, according to Boockvar of the tally that includes electronic and floor trades.
"A lot of the short-term traders aren't participating because we don't have the volatility," said Jeffrey Friedman, senior market strategist at Lind-Waldock, who noted the CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) is trading under 20, a scenario now in play for a third week.
Hartford Financial Services Group (HIG) was among those advancing after its late-Tuesday announcement that it would repay $3.4 billion in government relief funds. .
The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) climbed 13.28 points, or 0.6%, to 2,391.29.
The dollar fell against the Japanese yen and rose against the euro. .
Crude-oil futures closed at $82.93 a barrel and gold futures also gained, finishing at $1,124.2 an ounce.
"Equities or raw materials like commodities, we're search for risk, not safe haven," said Friedman.
An early report on prices at the wholesale level offered more credence to thinking that the Federal Reserve should not have to hike rates anytime soon to curb inflation.
The Labor Department's Producer Price Index declined 0.6% in February, its largest drop in seven months. Taking out food and energy costs, the index gained 0.1%. .
On Tuesday, stocks rose after the Fed's announcement that it would keep its key rate for overnight loans between banks at between zero and 0.25%. .
"Each FOMC meeting that keeps this language intact gives investors 12 weeks of stability," said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald.
On Capitol Hill, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified Wednesday about efforts to reform banking regulation, telling Congress the Fed's participation in the oversight of banks improves its ability to carry out its monetary goals.
The push for reform stems in part from what began as trouble in the housing market, with the ripple effect from that crisis still in play. .
Shares of Blockbuster Inc. (BBI) fell 30% after the video-rent chain said it might have to file for bankruptcy protection as it struggles with debt after reporting a fourth-quarter loss of nearly $435 million. .