US STOCKS-Wall St gains as tech boost offsets bank losses after Fed stance

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* Fed sees no rate hikes in 2019, financials fall

* Apple boosts tech stocks; Micron leads gains in chipmakers

* Biogen tumbles after scrapping Alzheimer's trial

* Conagra jumps after quarterly profit beat

* Indexes up: Dow 0.37 pct, S&P 0.47 pct, Nasdaq 0.71 pct (Changes comment, updates prices)

March 21 (Reuters) - Technology shares pushed Wall Street's main indexes higher on Thursday, offseting losses in U.S. lenders after the Federal Reserve decided not to raise interest rates this year

In a wholesale shift of their outlook, policymakers said the Fed's benchmark overnight interest rate was likely to remain at current levels at least through this year, while flagging an expected slowdown in the economy.

Financials, which are sensitive to interest rates, took the biggest hit and were down 0.72 percent. The banking index fell 1.65 percent.

"Investors are digesting the Fed's announcement from yesterday. The positives are that rates are low, inflation is low and stimulus is still there. The negative is the Fed wouldn't be doing this unless they knew things are going to get weaker," said Thomas Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt in Atlanta.

"Growth-type companies and not the interest rate-dependant banks are moving higher today and it shows that the environment is okay."

Technology stocks rose 1.62 percent on the back of Apple Inc and chipmakers.

The iPhone maker's shares jumped 3.3 percent after analysts said they expected the company's video service, which launches on Monday, to make a material impact on the company's earnings in the future.

Micron Technology Inc jumped 9.25 percent after the company said it sees a recovery in memory chips coming, driving a 2.74 percent gain in the Philadelphia chip index.

Expectations of a largely dovish Fed and hopes of the United States and China reaching a trade resolution have spurred a rally in stocks this year, with the S&P 500 now just 3.3 percent away from its record closing high in September.

Investors will now keep a close watch on trade talks between the United States and China as top U.S. officials travel to Beijing to resume negotiations.

At 10:45 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 96.28 points, or 0.37 percent, at 25,841.95. The S&P 500 was up 13.26 points, or 0.47 percent, at 2,837.49 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 55.02 points, or 0.71 percent, at 7,783.99.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq is set to post its fifth consecutive session of gains.

Among stocks, Biogen Inc tumbled 29 percent and was the biggest drag on the S&P and Nasdaq, after the drugmaker and its partner, Eisai Co Ltd, said they would discontinue two studies testing an Alzheimer's drug.

Its fall pushed the Nasdaq biotechnology index 2.05 percent lower.

Conagra Brands Inc jumped 10 percent after the food packaging company's quarterly profit topped estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.48-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.71-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 26 new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 44 new highs and 19 new lows. (Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

03/21/2019 11:07

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