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STOCKS RISE WHILE FED MEETS TODAY

Stocks moved moderately higher in midday trading today as investors waited to see how big an interest rate cut the Federal Reserve would implement later in the day.

The Fed's chief policy-making group, the Federal Open Market Committee, was meeting in the morning. It was a foregone conclusion that interest rates will drop for the sixth time this year, but Wall Street was anxious about the size of the cut -- whether it will be a quarter percentage point or a more aggressive half-point reduction.

A 2:15 p.m. EDT announcement of the decision was expected.

At 1 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was up 52.06 at 10,524.54, after falling 132 points Monday and Tuesday.

The market's broader indicators also rose. The Nasdaq composite index was up 16.59 at 2,081.21, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.94 to 1,218.70.

The five rate cuts so far this year prompted stock market rallies, but analysts say another rate cut might not bring buyers back to Wall Street because investors are still looking -- so far in vain -- for signs that companies are beginning to benefit from lower borrowing costs.

The rate cut will "be a focal point today and then it'll go into the dustbin," said Philip S. Dow, managing director of equity strategy at Dain Rauscher Wessels in Minneapolis. "I think the market is looking for real fundamental guideposts for true traction for a turnaround."

Dow said that evidence would include positive signs about corporate earnings, companies announcing they are hiring or opening new plants, or encouraging government reports on the state of the economy.

"Those just aren't coming," he said.

CVS, the nation's second-largest drugstore operator, plunged $6.10, or 13.8 percent, to $38 after announcing its earnings for the second quarter and the year will be lower than expected because of a sales drop-off blamed on the economic slowdown.

Citigroup rose 76 cents to $52.91 and Qualcomm gained $1.25 to $54.70, contributing the most to the gains in the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, respectively.

Shares of 3Com dropped 24 cents, or 5 percent, to $4.60 after the network equipment maker reported Tuesday it failed to meet analysts' reduced earnings expectations for the three months ending June 1.

Lucent dropped 12 cents, or 2 percent, to $5.88, after The Wall Street Journal reported the company may lay off an additional 10,000 workers because of continued restructuring.

General Mills rose 5 cents to $42.35 after the maker of Wheaties, Cheerios and Chex reported earnings that met analysts' expectations.

Corning gained 30 cents to $14.57 after Legg Mason money manager William Miller said he bought the shares last week because he believes the worst may be over for telecommunications companies.

The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller company stocks, was up 3.90 at 494.72.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock ended Wednesday down 1.15 percent, while stocks in Europe were mixed. In afternoon trading, Germany's DAX index was down 0.25 percent, and Britain's FT-SE 100 was up 0.84 percent. France's CAC-40 was down 0.65 percent.

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