Stocks flitted between gains and losses through most of morning, then turned broadly higher in the afternoon on gains in health care and utility stocks.
The Fed has held a key short-term interest rates close to zero for more than five years, making it cheaper for companies and consumers to borrow and boosting corporate profits. The stock market has surged as a result. But investors widely expect the Fed to start raising rates in the middle of next year.
Investors may get a better sense of how soon after the central bank concludes a two-day meeting Wednesday. Fed Chair Janet Yellen could discuss the bank’s rate plans, as well as the outlook for employment and inflation, in a press conference in the afternoon.
Until the closing minutes, the Dow Jones industrial average looked like it would rise to a record, but prices faltered at the end. Still the blue-chip index ended up gaining 100.83, its first triple-digit close since August 18. The Dow closed at 17,131.97, a gain of 0.6 percent.
The Nasdaq composite rose 33.86 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,552.76. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 14.85 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,998.98.
Among the 10 sectors of the S&P 500, health care stocks gained the most, up 1.3 percent. Utilities and energy stocks followed, with a 1.2 percent gain each. Energy stocks were pushed higher by rising oil prices. Exxon Mobil increased 1.2 percent.
In economic news, 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 Labor Department said.
Besides the Fed press conference tomorrow, investors are awaiting a referendum on Scottish independence on Thursday. The British pound has turned volatile in recent weeks as opinion polls narrowed ahead of the vote. A “yes” decision could trigger turmoil in the market as investors ponder the economic and financial fallout.
In metals trading, gold rose $1.60, or 0.1 percent, to $1,236.70 an ounce. Silver gained 10.1 cents, or 0.5 percent, or $18.72 an ounce. Copper rose 8 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $3.17 a pound.
The price of benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.96 to close at $94.88 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose $1.17 to close at $99.05 in London.
In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged from Monday at 2.59 percent.
Among stocks making big moves:
— Humana Inc. rose $4.71 to $132.37, a gain 4 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 this year.
— Sears Holdings fell $3.15, or 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.