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Trader Scott Gueli reacts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 4, 2014. U.S. stocks rallied on Tuesday with the S&P 500 closing at a record high. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Trader Scott Gueli reacts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 4, 2014. U.S. stocks rallied on Tuesday with the S&P 500 closing at a record high.

(Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

At the open: Markets rise ahead of Fed policy meeting Add to ...

North American markets were mostly higher Monday as violence in Iraq pushed oil higher and traders looked ahead to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s monthly policy meeting later in the week.

The S&P/TSX composite index added 26.20 points to 15,027.81.

The Canadian dollar was unchanged at 92.11 cents (U.S.) ahead of a two-day meeting by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which will deliver an economic outlook and decide whether it will continue to dial back on its massive bond purchasing program on Wednesday. The stimulus program has long helped support equities markets.

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U.S. indexes were mixed as the Dow Jones industrials fell 9.36 points to 16,766.38, the Nasdaq jumped 7.47 points to 4,318.12, while the S&P 500 gained 2.28 points to 1,938.44.

The International Monetary Fund sad it forecasts the U.S. economy will grow a modest two per cent this year, below its previous estimate of 2.7 per cent.

That would be nearly identical to the economy’s 1.9 per cent growth in 2013.

A brutal winter and a slowing housing recovery caused the economy to shrink during the first three months of 2014, the IMF noted in a report.

The cut in growth comes amid a similar move by the World Bank, which cut its 2014 global growth forecast to 2.8 per cent from 3.2 per cent, citing weather conditions and the political crisis in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, more positive economic signs are emerging in Canada.

A report by the Conference Board of Canada says pre-tax profits for Canadian auto manufacturers are expected to reach $1.3-billion this year, the highest level since 2002.

The report also says the Canadian industry is expected to add about 2,900 jobs in 2015, but Mexico is expected to surpass Canada in vehicle exports to the U.S. for the first time in 2015.

Along with the good news from the auto sector, it also looks like consumers are buying more homes.

The Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales for May were up compared with April and a year ago.

The association says home sales though its Multiple Listing Service system were 5.9 per cent higher compared with April and 4.8 per cent higher compared with a year ago.

The national average price for a home sold in May was $416,584, up 7.1 per cent from the same month last year, pushed higher by gains in Toronto and Vancouver.

Despite the bump, CREA also slightly trimmed its outlook for the year compared with a forecast in March.

The association is predicting sales would total 463,400 homes for the year, up 1.2 per cent compared with 2013. The updated outlook compared with the March forecast for 463,700.

In commodities, the benchmark U.S. crude for July delivery rose four cents to $106.95 (U.S.) a barrel as the conflict in Iraq worsened following reports of a massacre by Islamic militants over the weekend, raising fears of widening instability in the country, a key energy producer. The energy sector was the leading advancer on the Toronto Stock Exchange, up by 0.68 per cent.

The northern town of Tal Afar became the latest to fall to the militants, who have already captured a vast swath of territory including Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. The militants, who on Sunday posted graphic photos of truckloads of Iraqi soldiers that they apparently captured and killed, have vowed to march on Baghdad.

August bullion was up $1.70 $1,275.80 an ounce and July copper was up two cents to $3.05 a pound.

In corporate news, Dorel Industries Inc. says it’s buying Hong-Kong-based Lerado Group, one of the largest manufacturers of infant and juvenile products in China, for $120-million (U.S.). The purchase will provide Dorel with its first company-owned factories in Asia. The acquisition includes four plants, three in China and one based in Taiwan. Its shares rose 1.19 per cent, or 48 cents, to $40.65 on the TSX.

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