US STOCKS-Wall St advances ahead of Fed policy meeting

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* Boeing extends losses as Ethiopia crash data scrutinized

* Facebook drops on regulatory fears, broker downgrade

* Goldman, Citi gain on news of German bank deal

* Indexes up: Dow 0.25 pct, S&P 500 0.37 pct, Nasdaq 0.34pct (Updates to late market close)

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, March 18 (Reuters) - Banks and tech helped leadWall Street higher on Monday, while Boeing and Facebook were adrag and investors eyed this week's U.S. Federal Reserve meetingfor affirmation of its commitment to "patient" monetary policy.

Following the S&P 500's best week since November, thebenchmark index ended the session about 3.3 percent below itsall-time high reached in September. All three major U.S. indexesclosed in positive territory.

The Dow's fourth straight advance ran into headwinds fromBoeing Co BA.N , which fell 1.8 percent as the company facedincreasing scrutiny following a fatal crash in Ethiopia on March10. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N215053 The drop in shares of the world's largest planemaker extended last week's 10.3 percent decline and was theheaviest weight on the blue-chip index.

The Fed's two-day policy meeting begins on Tuesday.Investors anticipate the U.S. central bank will reinforce itsdovish approach toward further interest rate hikes. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2111IR

"There's always trepidation going into a Fed meeting," saidTim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counselin New York. "Anything that gives visibility to the potentialfor future rate hikes is going to keep people on the sidelines."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 65.23 points,or 0.25 percent, to 25,914.1, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 10.46points, or 0.37 percent, to 2,832.94 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 25.95 points, or 0.34 percent, to 7,714.48.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, eight closed in theblack, with energy .SPNY , consumer discretionary .SPLRCD andfinancial .SPSY companies enjoying the biggest percentagegains.

The prospect of extended OPEC supply cuts sent crude prices LCOc1 to four-month highs, which boosted energy companies,while news of upcoming initial public offerings (IPOs), notablyfrom ride-hailing service Lyft, sent the banking sector higher. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N21509Ourn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2152UG

"With markets close to all-time highs again, you see IPOspopping out of the woodwork," Ghriskey said.

The communications services sector .SPLRCL was the largestpercentage loser, weighed down by Facebook IncFB.O .

Facebook shares were down 3.4 percent after the EuropeanCommission's deputy head said "at some point, we will have toregulate" big tech and social media companies to protectcitizens and a top-rated Needham analyst downgraded the stock to"hold" from "buy." urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N2154HFurn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2153AB

Apple IncAAPL.O surprised investors with the launch ofnew iPad devices ahead of the company's expected March 25 launchof a content streaming service. The stock closed up 1.0 percent. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2153GN

Shares of Apple supplier Synaptics IncSYNA.O plummeted22.6 percent after Mizuho downgraded it to "neutral" from "buy." urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2152L9

Goldman SachsGS.N and CitigroupC.N advanced 2.1percent and 1.1 percent, respectively, on a report that thebanks are helping Germany's two biggest lenders with a potentialmerger worth more than $28 billion. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N21552V

Amazon.comAMZN.O gained 1.7 percent, leading the consumerdiscretionary sector's .SPLRCD advance.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a2.19-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.65-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 27 new 52-week highs and one new low; theNasdaq Composite recorded 82 new highs and 29 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.84 billion shares, comparedwith the 7.54 billion-share average over the last 20 tradingdays. (Reporting by Stephen Culp; editing by Jonathan Oatis) ((stephen.culp@thomsonreuters.com; 646-223-6076;))

This article appears in: Politics , World Markets , US Markets , Stocks
Referenced Symbols: AAPL ,

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