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Stocks up strongly as investors await interest rate ruling

Traders on the floor of the New York

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street participate in a moment of silence in remembrance of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Credit: Spencer Platt

Stocks advanced strongly Tuesday, as retail sales data showed a resilient consumer before Federal Reserve policymakers rule Thursday on whether to raise key interest rates.

At the close on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average had gained nearly 229 points, about 1.4 percent, to nearly 16,600. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 25.1 points, about 1.3 percent, to 1,978.1 The Nasdaq composite rose 54.8 points, about 1.1 percent, to 4,860.5.

As the markets closed, the price of benchmark U.S. crude oil was up 65 cents at $44.65 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

VOLATILE MARKETS: The stock market has recovered some of the ground that it lost in August and early September, but is still down from its peak of the year as traders and investors fret about the possible impact of slower growth in China and other emerging markets. The S&P 500 is down 7.7 percent from its record close set in May.

FEDERAL RESERVE: Investors are looking ahead to the meeting Wednesday of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee. Opinions are split over whether the Fed will raise its benchmark interest rate at the end of its two-day meeting on Thursday and economists expect the Fed to weigh China's slower economy and recent turbulence in financial markets against continued growth in the U.S. jobs market.

ANALYST'S OPINION: "Everybody's waiting on the Fed," said analyst John Canally, chief economic strategist at LPL Financial Corp. in Boston. "We saw a pretty solid gain in retail sales in August and an upward revision to July. People have been worried about a possible spillover from China and that's just not happening."

RETAIL SALES: Americans stepped up their spending on cars, restaurant meals, groceries and clothing in August. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that retail sales rose 0.2 percent last month, after advancing 0.7 percent in July. The increase was slightly less than economists had forecast.

FACTORIES STRUGGLING: Another report showed that while consumers are holding up, factories are struggling. U.S. factory production declined in August by the most since January 2014 as automakers scaled back after a surge the month before and a stronger dollar weighed on demand from overseas customers. Separate data showed manufacturing in the New York region contracted in September for a second straight month, reflecting declining orders and employment.

Reports from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News were used in this story.

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