NEW YORK, May 21 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks held modest gains Wednesday, bouncing back from the prior day's sell-off led by retail stocks, as investors were reassured somewhat by the Federal Reserve's minutes which signaled no rate hike soon.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 158.75 points, or 0.97 percent, to 16,533.06. The Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 34.65 points, or 0.85 percent, to 4,131.54. The broader S&P 500 gained 15.20 points, or 0.81 percent, to 1,888.03. All of the S&P 500's 10 sectors rose, with consumer discretionary, energy and industrials leading the gains.
The major indices initially edged higher before fluctuating following the release of the minutes which comforted investors by saying that during Fed's April policy meeting discussions did not imply that the Fed's policy normalization would necessarily begin sometime soon.
Participants at the meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, the policy-setting arm of the U.S. central bank, generally agreed that starting to consider options for normalization at the meeting was prudent, as it would help the committee to make decisions about approaches to policy normalization and to communicate its plans to the public well before the first steps in normalizing policy become appropriate, the minutes showed.
The country's economic growth paused in the first quarter overall, but it stepped up late in the quarter, partly reflecting the temporary effects of the unusually cold and snowy weather earlier in the quarter and the unwinding of those effects later in the quarter, the minutes also showed.
At the April policy meeting, the Fed announced a further 10- billion-U.S. dollar reduction in asset purchases to 45 billion dollars since May, while reaffirming that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy remains appropriate.
Also in the day, Fed Chair Janet Yellen defended her predecessor Ben Bernanke's efforts to stabilize the financial system and restore economic growth in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
Moreover, New York Fed President William Dudley said in a prepared speech Wednesday that the economic recovery has been variable across the New York region since November.
The remarks came a day after he took on a dovish tone, saying that the pace of eventual interest rate hikes would probably be relatively slow according to the U.S. economic condition.
The economic calendar was light in the day. U.S. mortgage applications increased 0.9 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly survey for the week ending May 16.
On corporate news, Target Corporation reported adjusted earnings per share were 0.70 dollars in the first quarter of 2014, a decrease of 13.9 percent from 2013, trailing market expectations. The retailing company also revealed sales of 17.1 billion dollars in the first quarter, higher than 16.7 billion dollars of the year- ago level, slightly exceeding analyst estimates, while cutting its full-year profit guidance.
The firm's shares were up 1.04 percent to 57.20 dollars, after swinging between gains and losses.
The CBOE Volatility Index, a gauge of fear in the market, declined 8.10 percent to end at 11.91.
In other markets, the dollar advanced against most major currencies after the Federal Reserve said the monetary stimulus is unlikely to trigger inflation.
In late New York trading, the euro dropped to 1.3678 dollars from 1.3698 dollars in the previous session. The dollar bought 101. 40 Japanese yen, higher than 101.27 yen of the previous session.
Oil prices gained as a government report showed that U.S. crude inventories unexpectedly dropped last week. Light, sweet crude for July delivery moved up 1.74 dollars to settle at 104.07 U.S. dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange fell as U.S. equities rebounded. The most active gold contract for June delivery lost 6.5 dollars, or 0.5 percent, to settle at 1,288.1 dollars per ounce.