Banks Lead Stocks Higher Midday

(AP) -- Banks are leading U.S. stocks higher in midday trading Tuesday as the Federal Reserve meets to discuss interest rates and the economy. The central bank is expected to raise interest rates for the third time this year on Wednesday. Banks benefit from higher interest rates because they can charge more to lend money. The gains were broad, and utilities were the only laggard among the 11 sectors in the S&P 500 index. Crude oil prices headed lower. Bitcoin futures slipped on their second day of trading.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 7 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,667 as of noon Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 131 points, or 0.5 percent, to 24,517. The Nasdaq added 8 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,883. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 4 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,523. The S&P 500 and the Dow closed at all-time highs Monday.

FEDERAL RESERVE: Investors were looking ahead to Wednesday, when the Federal Reserve is expected to raise short-term interest rates by 0.25 percent. While inflation has remained low, the central bank has seen a path to gradually raise rates as the economy and labor market have strengthened. The European Central Bank and the Bank of England will have policy announcements on Thursday, but neither is expected to change rates, leaving the focus on their economic forecasts.

MALL MOVERS: Several shopping mall owners were trading higher after Australian company Westfield agreed to be bought by France's Unibail-Rodamco for $15.7 billion. Macerich gained $2.72, or 4.3 percent, to $66.01, while Simon Property Group rose $2.73, or 1.7 percent, to $164.99. GGP picked up 27 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $23.66.

NOT INTERESTED: Comcast rose 2.1 percent after the Wall Street Journal reported that the cable TV and entertainment company was no longer in talks to buy parts of 21st Century Fox. Comcast added 82 cents to $39.26. The Journal also reported that Disney is in talks with Fox and that a deal could be announced this week.

BETTING ON FINANCIALS: Banks and other financial stocks accounted for many of the market's gains. Charles Schwab rose 89 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $51.61.

ULTRA HIP: Urban Outfitters gained 3.4 percent after the retailer issued a positive update on its fourth-quarter sales. The stock added $1.10 to $33.37.

UNDER SCRUTINY: Edison International slumped 6.5 percent after the utility said it believes authorities are looking into the possibility that wildfires in California started at one of its facilities. Edison shares slid $4.77 to $68.21.

DISAPPOINTING RESULTS: Casey's General Stores declined 8.7 percent after its second-quarter profit fell short of analysts' estimates. The stock shed $10.51 to $110.74.

ENERGY: Energy prices were headed lower. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 29 cents to $57.70 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard for oil, shed 87 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $63.82 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 113.66 Japanese yen from 113.52 yen late Monday. The euro fell to $1.1729 from $1.1786.

BITCOIN: Bitcoin futures were down $175, or 0.9 percent, to $18,370 on the Cboe Futures Exchange. The futures allow investors to make bets on the future price of bitcoin. The average price of an actual bitcoin was $17,148 at midday on private exchanges, according to Coindesk. The price of the digital currency has soared this year, having begun 2017 under $1,000.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.41 percent from 2.39 percent late Monday.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Major stock indexes in Europe rose. Germany's DAX gained 0.5 percent, while the CAC 40 of France added 0.8 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent. Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.3 percent, while South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.4 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong shed 0.6 percent. The S&P ASX 200 added 0.3 percent. India's Sensex dropped 0.7 percent. Other regional markets were mostly lower.

(BE)