New York markets gain on banks

The New York equities markets were up Wednesday at midday as investors waited for the Federal Reserve to issue its latest decision on interest rates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.6 percent to 11,603.91, while the Nasdaq Composite was 1.4 percent higher to 2,252.74 and the S&P 500 was also up 0.6 percent to 1,325.90. The S&P was at its highest level since February 2001, while the Dow was approaching its all-time high level.

Oil and oil-related companies were lower, however, as crude oil prices continued to decline. Halliburton was 2.7 percent lower to $28.32, while Marathon Oil dropped 3 percent to $71.26.

The tobacco sector was also lower as Reynolds American was 3.7 percent lower to $62.12 on a downgrade from a�?buya�? to a�?holda�? from Citigroup, which said that product shortages were driving consumers to other brands.

Plumber Masco declined by 2.1 percent to $26.77 after it revised its earnings guidance downward for this year based on the decrease in housing starts.

In the banking sector, however, investment banks saw gains on the day. Morgan Stanley added 0.9 percent to $72.51 on a 59 percent increase in third-quarter earnings, a better performance than had been anticipated. The news helped Bear Stearns, which gained 3.7 percent to $140.20, while Legg Mason was 4 percent higher to $100.87.

Oracle added 11.8 percent higher to $18.04 after it said that its fiscal first quarter profits were up by 29 percent, which its chief executive said was due to an increased market share.

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