4:20 pm : The major averages ended higher across the board as the S&P 500 advanced 0.8%.
Equities climbed steadily since the opening bell as investors prepared for tomorrow's policy decision from the Federal Reserve. Although chatter in recent weeks has included speculation the Fed would look to taper its asset purchases, today's broad gains suggest investors expect mostly reassuring words from Chairman Bernanke at tomorrow's press conference.
All ten sectors ended with solid gains, but today's rally was predicated on the strength of cyclical names.
The industrial space rose 1.3% amid outperformance in transportation and defensive stocks. The Dow Jones Transportation Average advanced 1.0% as 19 of 20 components registered gains. GATX (GMT 48.05, -0.45) was the lone decliner after Stifel Nicolaus downgraded the stock to 'Hold' from 'Buy.'
With regards to defensive stocks, Dow component General Electric (GE 24.33, +0.56) settled higher by 2.4% after forging a strategic partnership with Accenture (ACN 82.93, +0.48). The broader PHLX Defense Index climbed 1.7%.
Discretionary stocks also made a significant contribution to today's rally as the sector displayed broad strength. The lone pocket of weakness was among homebuilders as the group ended in mixed fashion following today's housing data. New home sales for the month of May hit an annualized rate of 914,000, which was short of the 950,000 expected by the Briefing.com consensus.
Notably, single-family starts increased a minuscule 0.3% in May from 597,000 in April to 599,000. This sector tends to be very stable. The lack of solid rebound after 4.2% decline in April could