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S&P breaks out of range

NEW YORK CITY — Stocks extended their September rally into a fourth week Monday as investors hoped for more moves by the Federal Reserve to prop up the economy.

Buying accelerated after the Standard & Poor’s 500 index broke through the high end of its recent trading range. Technical analysts see that as a hopeful sign for the market.

The S&P 500, the index most closely tracked by professional investors, rose to its highest level since May 18. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 150 points in afternoon trading. Buyers were also encouraged by an announcement from a group of economists declaring that the most recent recession ended in June 2009.

There is a growing expectation that the Fed’s rate-setting committee could relaunch programs to buy Treasurys and mortgage bonds in an effort to further stimulate the struggling economy. At the very least, it might hint at future plans to make such moves following its one-day meeting Tuesday.

“The Fed will hint at it, put it on the table, but not do anything,” said Brian Gendreau, a market strategist at Financial Network Investment Corp.

While many economic indicators have topped forecasts in recent weeks, propelling stocks higher, the economy is far from strong. If the Fed starts buying bonds again it could drive interest rates lower, enabling companies and consumers to get cheaper loans. The Fed had a similar bond-buying program in place earlier this year. Treasury prices were little changed Monday.

In corporate news, IBM Corp. said it would buy data storage provider Netezza Corp. for about $1.7 billion in cash. Investors see acquisitions a sign companies are more comfortable using their spare cash built up during the recession in order to expand.

“At some point, if growth continues you have to get that money your sitting on working for you,” said Cameron Short, a senior vice president at Stifel Nicolaus.

The Dow rose 150.01, or 1.4 percent, to 10,757.86 in afternoon trading. The Dow has risen three straight weeks and is up 7.4 percent so far this month. However it’s still more than 4 percent below its high for the year.

The S&P 500 rose 16.77, or 1.5 percent, to 1,142.36.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 36.82, or 1.6 percent, to 2,352.43.

The S&P 500 climbed solidly above the key technical level of 1,131 Monday morning, the high end of its recent trading range. The S&P briefly crossed that barrier on Friday for the first time since June 21, but not for long enough to convince analysts that the market had enough momentum to surge higher. Many automatic buy and sell orders are set around market milestones such as these, and investors watch those levels closely for clues about which way the market may go next. Closing significantly above 1,131 Monday could provided enough momentum to drive stocks even higher in the coming days.

About five stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 610 million shares.