Discretionary Stocks Lift Wall St, Fed Minutes Awaited

Wall Street extended its gains into the second trading day of the new year, supported by consumer discretionary stocks, as investors awaited minutes of the Federal Reserve's December meeting where it raised interest rates.

The central bank had cited strength in the labor market and a slight uptick in inflation among reasons for its move.

Investors will pore over the minutes, due at 2:00 p.m. ET (1900 GMT), to assess Fed policymakers' view on the economy and the incoming administration.

With just over two weeks left before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, investors are on the watch for more details on his proposed policies such as tax cuts and higher fiscal spending.

However, Wednesday appeared to be one the rare days when trading was not dictated by the Trump trade, which has lifted sectors such as banks and industrials and taken the Dow within an arm's length of the historic 20,000 mark.

"The dispersion we are seeing today, where correlations are broken down and people are making investment decisions based on incoming data, is a very positive shift in the market," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Equity Capital Markets in New York.

At 12:22 p.m. ET (1722 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 44 points, or 0.22 percent, at 19,925.76, the S&P 500 was up 11.51 points, or 0.51 percent, at 2,269.34 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 44.90 points, or 0.83 percent, at 5,473.98.

The S&P 500 consumer discretionary sector rose 1.37 percent and was on track for its best day in nearly one month, mainly due to gains in automakers.

Both General Motors and Ford rose about 5 percent after posting better-than-expected U.S. sales in December.

Nine of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher, with gains in safe-havens utilities and real estate following the rise in discretionary names.

Gilead Sciences was the top stock on the S&P and the Nasdaq, rising 3.6 percent to $76.83 after the company named a new oncology chief.

Comcast rose 1.7 percent after Macquarie raised its price target.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,530 to 406. On the Nasdaq, 2,266 issues rose and 537 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 22 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 119 new highs and 13 new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)