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At midday: S&P 500 surges to new record high Add to ...

North American stocks were strong in midday trading on Wednesday, sending the benchmark S&P 500 to a fresh record high following an early release of minutes from the last Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting.

The S&P 500 was up nearly 18 points or 1.1 per cent, to 1586 – marking its biggest one-day gain in more than a month and putting it some 20 points above its 2007 peak.

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The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average also moved deeper into record-high territory. It was up 130 points or 0.9 per cent, to 14,803. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 43 points or 0.4 per cent, to 12,528.

The gains followed the release of Fed minutes, originally scheduled to be sent out in the afternoon, as usual, but released before markets opened because they had been inadvertently distributed to some recipients a day early.

The minutes contained few surprises, though they showed that Fed members continued to debate the risks and effectiveness of stimulus policy. Some members believe quantitative easing – or buying bonds – should stop by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Chinese data on imports provided a pleasant surprise: Imports jumped more than 14 per cent over last year, smashing expectations and pointing to stronger domestic demand.

Within the S&P 500, technology stocks rose 1.6 per cent, health-care stocks rose 1.3 per cent, financials rose 1.1 per cent and industrials rose 1 per cent.

Within Canada’s benchmark index, financials rose 1.1 per cent, telecom stocks rose 1 per cent and energy stocks rose 0.7 per cent. Materials dragged on the index’s performance, falling 2 per cent.

Gold fell to $1,570 (U.S.) an ounce, down $17, after Goldman Sachs lowered its estimate on the price of gold for this year and next. The investment bank cut its three-month price target to $1,530 (U.S.) an ounce from $1,615.

In Europe, the U.K.’S FTSE 100 rose 1.2 per cent and Germany’s DAX index rose 2.3 per cent.

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