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Stocks close strongly as Fed meeting starts

A trader works on the floor of the

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014 on Wall Street. Fed policymakers start a two-day meeting on Tuesday that many investors expect will bring it closer to raising its key interest rate as the economy strengthens. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

Financial markets were up at the close of trading Tuesday with energy stocks leading the way. Investors kept an eye on a two-day Federal Reserve meeting that got underway.

At the close on Wall Street, the Standard & Poor's 500 index was up nearly 15 points at a hair less than 1,999. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 100.8 points, or nearly 0.6 percent, to close at nearly 17,132. The Nasdaq added nearly 34 points, about 0.8 percent, to 4,552.8.

FED WATCH: The Fed began a two-day meeting on Tuesday morning that many investors expect could bring it closer to raising its key interest rate as the economy strengthens. Fed Chair Janet Yellen will discuss the outlook for employment and inflation, and the bank's rate plans in a news conference on Wednesday. The Fed has held the rate close to zero for more than five years, and stocks have surged against that backdrop.

WINNERS AND LOSERS: Energy stocks gained 1.6 percent, the most among the 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500, as oil prices climbed. Exxon Mobil closed up 1.1 percent, the biggest energy gainer in the Dow. The price of U.S. benchmark crude increased about $1.97, or 2 percent, to $94.79 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

BUYBACK BOOST: Humana Inc. rose $4.71 to $132.37, a gain 3.7 percent. The health insurer said it plans to repurchase as much as $2 billion of its own shares, double what it had previously planned. The stock has climbed 28 percent so far this year.

SEARS PLUMMETS: Sears Holdings fell $3.15, or more than 9 percent, to $30.37. The company is taking out a $400 million short-term loan from a hedge fund run by CEO Edward Lampert, the retail company's biggest owner. Sears has struggled against rivals like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in recent years.

INFLATION WATCH: A measure of prices that U.S. producers receive for their goods and services was unchanged in August, the latest sign that inflation is in check. A drop in wholesale gas and food prices was offset by higher prices for transportation and shipping services, the U.S. Labor Department said Tuesday.

SCOTLAND'S CHOICE: Investors are also awaiting a referendum on Scottish independence on Thursday. The British pound has turned volatile in recent weeks as opinion polls narrowed before the vote. A yes decision could trigger turmoil in the market as investors ponder the economic and financial fallout.

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