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Stocks - Wall Street Rises on Microsoft's Infectious Optimism

Investing.com – Wall Street opened higher on Thursday as signs of confidence from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and gains in chip stocks offset mixed signals from the Federal Reserve.

The Dow rose 57 points or 0.2% by 9:44 AM ET (13:44 GMT), while the S&P 500 gained 7 points or 0.3% and the Nasdaq composite was up 38 points or 0.5%.

The Fed cut rates by 25 basis points at its policy meeting on Wednesday, largely in line with expectations. But the market sold off after guidance from Fed chair Jerome Powell indicated that the central bank didn’t expect a slowdown in the economy anytime soon.

Powell noted only that "if the economy does turn down, then a more extensive sequence of rate cuts could be appropriate."

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) helped markets rise, jumping 2% after it increased its quarterly dividend by 5 cents, bringing it to $0.51 per share, and announced a new stock buyback worth up to $40 billion. The measures, were taken as a welcome sign of corporate confidence, suggesting that corporate spending may not be as weak as dismal figures from FedEx (NYSE:FDX) had suggested on Tuesday.

Semiconductor companies were higher, with Advanced Micro Devices Inc (NASDAQ:AMD) rising 0.9%, NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) up 0.1% and Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) gaining 0.3%.

AT&T (NYSE:T) was 0.9% higher after a report in the Wall Street Journal suggested it's planning to spin off its DirecTV arm, one of the acquisitions criticized as wasteful by activist investor Elliott Management when it unveiled its stake in the company last week.

Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND) jumped 1.1% after the company was rated ‘overweight’ in new coverage at Barclays (LON:BARC). The analysts said the plant-based burger company was in a position to capture a significant share of the market.

Meanwhile, Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) stock slipped 3.2% after the parent company of chain Olive Garden reported mixed earnings, with revenue coming in below forecasts as comparable-restaurant sales rose less-than-expected.

In commodities, the U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, was down 0.3% to 97.845 and gold futures slipped 0.4% to $1,509.45 a troy ounce. Crude oil futures rose 1.3% to $58.81 a barrel.

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