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US markets end higher ahead of Fed meeting

The US markets ended higher, with gains of over quarter a percent, on Monday on optimism about a US-China trade deal after China's state-owned Xinhua news agency reporting the US and China have made further concrete progress on the text of a final agreement. Further, reports on the merger-and-acquisition front added to the positive sentiment, as Deutsche Bank (DB) and rival German bank Commerzbank confirmed they are in merger talks. However, buying interest was somewhat subdued as traders seemed reluctant to make significant moves ahead of the Federal Reserve's monetary policy Meeting to begin Tuesday. The Fed is widely expected to leave interest rates unchanged, although traders are likely to keep a close eye on the accompanying statement for clues about the outlook for rates. The central bank's economic projections and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's subsequent press conference are also likely to be in focus.

On the economic front, homebuilder confidence in the US has held steady in the month of March, according to a report released by the National Association of Home Builders. The report said the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index came in at 62 in March, unchanged from February. Street had expected the index to inch up to 63. NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde said builders report the market is stabilizing following the slowdown at the end of 2018 and they anticipate a solid spring home buying season. The unchanged reading by the homebuilder confidence index reflected a mixed performance by the three index components. While the component charting sales expectations in the next six months rose three points to 71 and the component gauging current sales conditions increased two points to 68, the component measuring traffic of prospective buyers fell four points to 44.

Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 65.23 points or 0.25 percent to 25914.10, Nasdaq gained 25.95 points or 0.34 percent to 7714.48 and S&P 500 was up by 10.46 points or 0.37 percent to 2832.94.

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