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NEW YORK – Stocks are moving higher after the Federal Reserve leaves its benchmark interest rate unchanged and says the pace of economic activity has picked up. The Dow Jones industrial average is less than 150 points away from 10,000, a mark it hasn't been above since October While the Fed was largely... show more NEW YORK – Stocks are moving higher after the Federal Reserve leaves its benchmark interest rate unchanged and says the pace of economic activity has picked up.

The Dow Jones industrial average is less than 150 points away from 10,000, a mark it hasn't been above since October

While the Fed was largely expected to keep interest rates at a record low of near zero, its assessment about the economy reaffirmed what the market has been betting on for the past seven months: that the economy is slowly returning to growth.

After the Fed's announcement, the Dow is up 47 at 9,877. The Standard & Poor's 500 index is up 3 at 1,075, while the Nasdaq composite index is up 9 at 2,155.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks crept higher Wednesday afternoon ahead of the Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates.

Major stock indexes had been wavering in a narrow range throughout the day, but pushed to new 11-month highs as the Fed's announcement grew closer. The Dow Jones industrial average is about 150 points away from 10,000, a mark it hasn't been above since October.

Declines in energy and material stocks, which came as oil dropped sharply, weighed on the market's overall gains.

The U.S. central bank is expected to keep its benchmark interest rate at a record low of near zero when it concludes its two-day policy meeting Wednesday afternoon, but investors are hoping for a clearer indication of when the Fed may raise rates in the future. Investors will also be looking for more clues about the strength of the economy's recovery in the statement to be released at the end of the meeting.

"The market is going to look through every word of this statement for the 'when,'" said John Canally, an economist at LPL Financial.

Low interest rates have helped spur the nearly seven-month rally in stocks, weakening the dollar and providing investors with access to cheap financing. The obstacle the Fed faces is determining the appropriate time to raise rates and exit some of its stimulus programs. If the Fed raises rates too soon it risks upsetting the recovery, but if rates are left low for too long it could lead to inflation.

With major market indicators up more than 50 percent off their lows in early March, investors are worried that stocks have become overvalued, especially with the strength of the economy's recovery still in question. Despite their doubts, investors continue to buy up stocks afraid of missing out on an extended rally.

The Dow rose 31.97, or 0.3 percent, to 9,861.84. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.26, or 0.2 percent, to 1,073.92, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 7.12, or 0.3 percent, to 2,153.42.

Advancing stocks slightly outnumbered decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 606.4 million shares, compared with 684.7 million shares traded at the same time a day earlier.

Oil prices dropped $2.63 to $69.13 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, bringing energy stocks down with it, after the government reported that crude inventories unexpectedly rose by 2.8 million barrels last week. Crude in storage is now 10.6 percent above year-ago levels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.

Analysts had expected a drop of 2.25 million barrels for the week ended Sept. 18, according to a survey by Platts, an energy information service owned by McGraw-Hill Cos.

After the report, shares of Consol Energy Inc. were down $1.75, or 3.6 percent, at $47.53. Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. fell 91 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $37.51.

As investors moved out of energy stocks, they put more money to work in consumer staples, companies that tend to hold up well even during economic downturns.

A surprisingly strong earnings report helped lift shares of General Mills Inc. The maker of Cheerios and Yoplait yogurt said Wednesday its fiscal first-quarter profit jumped 51 percent on lower ingredient costs and solid demand for its products. The food maker also increased its full-year earnings outlook. Shares soared $3.05, or 5 percent, to $64.02. Rival Kellogg Co. rose $1.20, or 2.5 percent, to $49.71.

On Tuesday, the Dow rose 51 points, recovering all of the previous day's losses, as the dollar sank and commodities rebounded. The market's movements have been moderate in recent weeks as investors try to determine whether the massive jump in stocks since early March accurately reflects the state of the economy.

Bonds fell after a weak auction of 5-year notes. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.50 percent from 3.45 percent late Tuesday.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices slipped.

In other trading, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 0.13, or 0.02 percent, to 620.82.

Overseas, European indexes reversed early gains and
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