US STOCKS-Wall St inches higher ahead of Fed policy meeting

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* Boeing extends losses as Ethiopia crash data scrutinized

* Apple rises after new iPad launch

* Goldman, Citi gain on German bank deal

* Indexes up: Dow 0.12 pct, S&P 500 0.29 pct, Nasdaq 0.28pct (Updates to late afternoon; changes dateline, byline)

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, March 18 (Reuters) - Wall Street edged higher onMonday as declines in Boeing and Facebook held gains in checkand investors eyed this week's Federal Reserve meeting foraffirmation of the central bank's commitment to "patient"monetary policy.

Coming on the heels of the S&P 500's best week sinceNovember, the benchmark index currently hovers about 3.4 percentbelow its all-time high reached in September. All three majorU.S. indexes were in positive territory.

"People were so pessimistic around year-end, but the markethas since had a tremendous rebound and now we're in await-and-see phase," said Peter Tuz, president of ChaseInvestment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Dow's nominal advance was hindered by Boeing CoBA.N ,which fell 2.0 percent as the company faced increasing scrutinyregarding safety of its 737 MAX planes following a fatal crashin Ethiopia on March 10. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N215053 The world's largest planemaker extended last week's 10.3 percent decline and was theheaviest weight on the blue-chip index.

On Tuesday the U.S. Federal Reserve's two-day policy meetingbegins. Investors expect the central bank to reinforce its"patient" approach toward further interest rate hikes. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2111IR

"Whatever the Fed says could move the market," Tuz added."We think that (the Fed is) on hold for the time being."

Brexit helped curbed investor optimism as Great Britain'sspeaker of Parliament warned that Prime Minister Theresa May'sdeal would not be put to a vote unless it took a substantiallydifferent form. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N2153SV

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 31.79 points,or 0.12 percent, to 25,880.66, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 8.17points, or 0.29 percent, to 2,830.65 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 21.45 points, or 0.28 percent, to 7,709.98.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, six were in theblack, with energy .SPNY and financial .SPSY companiesenjoying the biggest percentage gains.

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

Facebook's shares were down 3.1 percent after the deputyhead of the European Commission said "at some point, we willhave to regulate" big tech and social media companies to protectcitizens urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N2154HF and a top-rated Needham analyst downgradedthe stock to "hold" from "buy." urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2153AB

Apple IncAAPL.O helped push the tech sector .SPLRCT higher when it surprised inventors with the launch of new iPaddevices ahead of the company's expected March 25 launch of itscontent streaming service. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2153GN The stock was up 0.9percent.

Shares of Apple supplier Synaptics IncSYNA.O swooned,dropping 22.1 percent after Mizuho downgraded the stock to"neutral" from "buy." urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2152L9

Goldman SachsGS.N and CitigroupC.N were up 2.2 percentand 1.2 percent, respectively, on news that the banks arehelping Germany's two biggest lenders work on a potential mergerworth more than $28 billion. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N21552V

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a1.93-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.37-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 26 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; theNasdaq Composite recorded 72 new highs and 23 new lows. (Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Dan Grebler) ((stephen.culp@thomsonreuters.com; 646-223-6076;))

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

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