(By Balachander) U.S. stocks closed on a modestly higher note amid expectations of new easing measures from the Federal Reserve to stimulate the economy.
S&P 500 Index rose 0.21 percent to finish at 1,436.56. The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.07 percent to end at 13,333.35. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.32 percent to close at 3,114.31.
Investors keenly anticipate decision from the Fed's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) policy meeting that ends on Thursday. UBS analyst Maury Harris expects the easing will take the form of a six-month program of at least $500 billion, primarily focused on Treasuries.
In European news, Germany's high court on Wednesday approved the country's participation in the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) bailout fund with certain conditions, including a cap of 190 billion euros ($245 billion) on Germany's share of the ESM.
On the domestic economic front, a government data showed that import and export prices increased 0.7 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively, in August, while economists expected import and export prices to rise 1.5 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively. In July, import prices declined 0.7 percent while export prices rose 0.4 percent, respectively.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: AAPL, FB, KSS, ANF, AEO, STLD, TOO, XRTX, VNR, SNTS, RLH
In corporate news, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) unveiled iPhone 5, the thinnest and lightest smartphone ever as well as one of the most keenly awaited technolgy products of 2012. Shares ended 1.38 percent higher.
Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) jumped 7.62 percent after Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco. Zuckerberg commented about the company's mobile business and expressed confidence about the overall business prospects.
Kohl's Corp. (NYSE:KSS) advanced 3.36 percent after Deutsche Bank upgraded its rating on the shares to "Buy" from "Hold" and raised price target on the stock to $62 from $49.
Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF) added 5.42 percent. CNBC reported that the retailer of casual apparel retained Goldman Sachs (GS) due to pressure from investors.
American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO) advanced 3.30 percent after the specialty retailer declared a special cash dividend of $1.50 per share and a regular quarterly dividend of $0.11 per share.
Steel Dynamics Inc. (NASDAQ:STLD) fell 3.91 percent after the maker of steel products forecast lower earnings for the third quarter due to lower steel shipments.
Teekay Offshore Partners L.P. (NYSE:TOO) retreated 5.39 percent after the provider of marine transportation announced plans to offer 7 million common units.
Vanguard Natural Resources LLC (NYSE:VNR) declined 4.75 percent after the company priced its public offering of 6 million units at $27.51 apiece, a 4 percent discount to the stock's previous close.
Xyratex Ltd. (NASDAQ:XRTX) slumped 10.15 percent after the data storage company reduced its revenue forecast for the third quarter, below market expectations, citing lower demand and delayed product acceptance and revenue recognition for its products.
Santarus Inc. (NASDAQ:SNTS) jumped 4.74 percent after the biopharmaceutical company said its experimental traveler's diarrhea drug rifamycin SV MMX met its objective in a late-stage trial.
Red Lion Hotels Corp. (NYSE:RLH) dropped 12.29 percent. The hospitality and leisure company said it has suspended its review of strategic alternatives after it did not receive any offers.
European markets ended mixed, with Germany's DAX up 0.46 percent to close at 7,343.53. France's CAC40 rose 0.18 percent to finish at 3,543.79. U.K.'s FTSE 100 dipped 0.17 percent to end at 5,782.08.
Asian markets rose, with China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index up 0.28 percent to finish at 2,126.55. Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 1.73 percent to end at 8,959.96. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 1.10 percent to close at 20,075.39. India's BSE Sensex closed at 18,000.03, up 0.82 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan:
Crude oil futures dipped 0.40 percent to $96.78 per barrel while natural gas futures jumped 2.07 percent to $3.054 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures edged 0.07 percent lower to $1,733.7 per ounce and silver futures shed 0.79 percent to $33.30 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro rose 0.31 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.2895. The British pound gained 0.19 percent against the greenback to 1.6101, and the dollar added 0.10 percent against the Japanese yen to 77.8500.