Stock Market Today: S&P Nears Record High as Investors Await Fed Clues

Tickers in this article: AAPL RDEN TJX ^DJI ^GSPC ^IXIC

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Anyone expecting the Fed to use this week's Jackson Hole symposium to signal a hawkish regime shift in the policy debate are setting themselves up for disappointment. The Fed is not likely to entertain the idea that it is falling behind the curve and keeping interest rates too low for too long.

U.S. stocks stretched out early gains to the close on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 hovering just 0.32% below its July 24 record close and gaining 2.63% in August thus far. The increases came as many economists and market participants continue to bet that the Federal Reserve will keep communicating a more dovish stance despite rising chatter on inflation and a consistently healthy economic recovery. The markets seemed to be exuding an air of certainty throughout the session, with the VIX Volatility Index down as much as 2.76% on Tuesday to 11.98, nearing its August lows. Risk-on sectors caught some of the highest bids, with technology up 0.69% and consumer discretionary up 0.76%.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.48% to 16,919.59. The S&P 500 was up 0.5% to 1,981.60. The Nasdaq was up 0.43% to 4,527.51.

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The oft-watched inflation gauge, the Consumer Price Index, displayed on Tuesday an as-expected 0.1% rise in July, smaller than the 0.3% gain in June; the reading highlights that while inflationary pressures are in motion, broad readings aren't surging. Such reports are expected to give the Fed more room to maneuver on fed funds rate hiking. The government also reported that housing starts jumped 15.7% in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million units.

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The FOMC minutes from the Fed's July meeting on Wednesday and Fed Chair Janet Yellen's speech at Jackson Hole on Friday are expected to provide more clues into whether the central bank will expedite the policy normalization process.

Ed Yardeni, chief investment strategist at Yardeni Research, is among the market participants who are certain that Yellen will give a more dovish rather than hawkish speech in light of her previously-voiced concerns that premature monetary tightening can be disastrous. "Stock prices tend to rise after she speaks about the economy and monetary policy," Yardeni notes.

In individual stock action, TJX Companies Inc. was up 8.65% to $58.56 on very heavy trading volume after the off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions reported better-than-projected earnings.

Apple hit an all-time split-adjusted high of $99.94 after the tech giant received a patent that could remove a roadblock to the company's long-rumored iWatch. Home-improvement retailer