The U.S. stock markets extended gains today after the Federal Reserve reported an economic improvement as it moves closer to implementing an interest rate hike.

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In a statement, the Federal Reserve Open Markets Committee (FOMC) indicated that the labor market “continued to improve with solid job gains and declining unemployment.” The Committee also noted “additional improvement” in the housing market.

The Committee also maintained its view that the current 0 to 0.25% target range for the federal funds rate remains appropriate. The FOMC emphasized that it would raise the federal funds rate when it sees further improvement in the labor market and reasonably confident that inflation returns to its 2% target.

Joe Bell, a senior equity analyst at Schaeffer’s Investment Research told Bloomberg that most people expect the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates by the end of the year. He noted that the statement of the Committee “did n’t do anything to change that narrative.”

[drizzle]On the other hand, Myles Clouston, senior director of NASDAQ Advisory Services commented, “The Street clearly has a tug-of-war going on between the camp that sees enough evidence and wants to get a hike under the belt, and another camp that would prefer the Fed to be cautious and wait until later in the year.”

Earlier this month, International Monetary Fund (IMF) reiterated its call to the Federal Reserve to delay raising interest rates until the first half of 2016, with a gradua increase after that.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein believed that the U.S. markets are poised to experience growth for a long period. He said, “We are in for a longish, positive market. He emphasized that the United States chewed a lot of problems since the financial crisis. He said, “Consumers have deleveraged, the banking system has deleveraged, we got the blessing of low energy prices, housing prices started to stabilize and move higher.”

U.S. Markets

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) – 17,751.39 (+0.69%)
  • S&P 500- 2,108.57 (+0.73%)
  • NASDAQ- 5,111.73 (+0.44%)
  • Russell 2000- 1,230.50 (+0.48%)

European Markets

  • EURO STOXX 50 Price EUR- 3,575.53 (+0.60%)
  • FTSE 100 Index- 6,631.00 (+1.16%)
  • Deutsche Borse AG German Stock Index DAX- 11,211.85 (+0.34%)

Asia-Pacific Markets

  • Nikkei 225- 20,302.91 (-0.13%)
  • Hong Kong Hang Seng Index- 24,619.45 (+0.47%)
  • Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index- 5,624.16 (+0.71%)

Stocks in Focus

Citrix Systems gained more tha 8% to $75.27 per share. The company signed a cooperation agreement with Elliott Management and appointed Jesse Cohn to its board of directors.

The stock price of Shake Shack climbed nearly 18% to $62.10 per share. The stock gained as much as 21% making it the biggest gainer in the Russell 2000 Restaurants Index today. The company recorded its biggest intra-day gain today since its initial public offering (IPO) on June 30, 2015.

Republic Airways Holdings skyrocketed almost 53% to $5.26 per share, the highest gainer among the companies trading on NASDAQ. The company recently released its preliminary results for the second quarter indicating that it expects to generate earnings of around $4 million to $5 million or $0.08 to $0.10 per share.

The stock value of Big 5 Sporting Goods plummeted more than 29% to $10.51 per share. The company reported earnings of $0.12 per share on $240.4 million in revenue for the second quarter. Wall Street analysts expected the company to deliver earnings of $0.15 per share on $242.81 million in revenue.

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