REUTERS - U.S. stocks marched higher on Thursday, with the Nasdaq hitting a record intraday high, as investors cheered the Federal Reserve's decision to not raise interest rates.
While the Fed said the risks to economic outlook were roughly "balanced", it left rates unchanged for want of "further evidence of continued progress". Inflation remains below the central bank's target of 2 percent and members saw room for improvement in the labor market.
The Fed also slowed the pace of future hikes and cut its longer run interest rate forecast, but sent a strong signal for a rate hike by the end of this year.
The consensus among economists is for a move in December as the Fed's November meeting comes just ahead of the U.S. Presidential elections.
Traders have set the probability of a November hike at a modest 12.4 percent, while the odds rise to 58.4 percent for December, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.
"Clearly the markets view the Fed's inaction as favorable... but if you read between the lines, the Fed is concerned about the strength of the economy," said Matt Schreiber, chief investment officer at WBI Investments in Red Bank, New Jersey.
"The Fed and central banks worldwide have been providing investors with a sense of calm and complacency."
The Bank of Japan and the Bank of New Zealand also kept rates unchanged.
The dollar index dropped 0.4 percent on Thursday, and was on track to mark the second straight day of losses after the Fed's decision.
Oil prices rose about 2 percent, in response to a weaker dollar and a surprise drop in U.S. crude inventories.
Adding some support to the Fed's plans for at least one hike this year was a report that showed the number of Americans applying for unemployment last week fell to a two-month low.
At 12:34 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 120.6 points, or 0.66 percent, at 18,414.3. All but one of its 30 components were higher.
The S&P 500 was up 13.12 points, or 0.61 percent, at 2,176.24.
The Nasdaq Composite was up 37.03 points, or 0.7 percent, at 5,332.21, after rising as much as 0.76 percent to a record of 5335.82.
The three indexes are on track to mark their third straight day of gains.
The technology index rose 0.55 percent and was the strongest influence on the benchmark S&P 500 index.
Shares of Amazon.com rose 1.9 percent to $804.86, after hitting a record following a price target raise by BMO. The stock gave the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq their biggest boost.
Apple rose 0.9 percent to $114.56 after Nomura and RBC raised their price targets.
Weyerhaeuser was the top percentage gainer on the S&P, rising 5.1 percent to $31.88 after Goldman Sachs initiated coverage of the real estate investment trust with a "buy" rating.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,467 to 516. On the Nasdaq, 1,969 issues rose and 771 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 27 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 126 new highs and 11 new lows.
(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)