US stocks higher after Fed minutes status quo

US stocks moved higher Wednesday after Federal Reserve meeting minutes suggested the central bank would curtail stimulus measures only if the job market improves significantly.

About 35 minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 73.03 (0.50 percent) to 14,746.49.

The broad-based S&P 500 jumped 9.71 (0.62 percent) to 1,578.32 while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index increased 29.11 (0.90 percent) to 3,266.97.

The gains came after the minutes from the Fed's March 19-20 meeting reaffirmed the central bank's commitment to its quantitative easing program until the job markets improves.

The minutes showed policymakers slightly more inclined to reel in QE bond purchases this year amid signs of recovery in the labor market.

But that meeting came on the heels of the February jobs surge, which added 268,000 nonfarm payrolls. The March data released last week showed a paltry gain of 88,000 jobs, the slowest growth in nine months and far below expectations.

Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare said gains Tuesday reflected the market's ability to withstand negative news.

"Buyers were emboldened by the market's resilience in the face of negative headlines (e.g. Cyprus, North Korea, and nonfarm payrolls) that had the potential to incite some more concerted selling interest but didn't," O'Hare said.

Dow member United Health Group was flat after a $500 million verdict against two of the company's affiliates related to a case involving two patients who were afflicted with hepatitis C. The United Health affiliates plan to appeal the decision.

Realogy, a real estate franchiser, dipped 4.6 percent after disclosing that it expects a net loss of $69-$78 million in the most recent quarter.

Discount retailer Family Dollar Stores fell 1.2 percent after reporting earnings just shy of expectations. The company cited the "unanticipated delay of the 2012 tax refunds" as a factor in the weak results.

Insurer Progressive Corp. slipped 2 percent despite reporting a 21 percent increase in per-share quarterly earnings.

Barrick Gold dropped 5 percent after Goldman Sachs slashed its gold price forecast.

Bond prices dropped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.78 percent from 1.75 percent late Tuesday, while the 30-year bond increased to 2.98 percent from 2.93 percent. Bond prices move inversely to yields.

jmb/pmh