(Updates to late morning, changes comment)
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Sept 18 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were rising in late morning trading on Thursday, with the S&P 500 hitting a record high a day after the U.S. Federal Reserve renewed its commitment to keeping interest rates low.
The Fed said Wednesday at the conclusion of a two-day policy meeting it would keep interest rates near zero for a "considerable time," language supportive of equities which some had expected to be dropped from the statement.
However, the central bank's outlook included forecasts for higher-than-expected rates in 2015 and 2016, which helped financial stocks lead gains on Wall Street.
U.S. housing starts and permits fell in August, but upward revisions to the prior month's data suggested the housing market continued to gradually improve. Separate data showing a sharp drop in the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits last week suggested the slowdown in job growth last month was probably an aberration.
"Data says the U.S. economy continues to chug along," said King Lip, chief investment officer at Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco.
He said the Fed statement was giving support to Wall Street and relative valuations could continue to push money towards U.S. stocks.
"Right now the best-looking asset class is equities."
The Dow Jones industrial average was rising 89.04 points, or 0.52 percent, to 17,245.89, the S&P 500 was gaining 8.59 points, or 0.43 percent, to 2,010.16 and the Nasdaq Composite was adding 24.17 points, or 0.53 percent, to 4,586.36.
The S&P hit a high of 2,011.79.
The largest percentage gainer on the New York Stock Exchange was Penn West Petroleum, rising 9.27 percent, while the largest percentage decliner was USEC Inc, down 20.76 percent.
Among the most active stocks on the NYSE were Bank of America, up 1.50 percent to $17.02; Rite Aid Corp , down 17.02 percent to $5.51, after it cut its full-year profit forecast for a second time this year; and GE, up 0.92 percent to $26.29.
On the Nasdaq, Yahoo, down 1.7 percent to $41.89; Vivus Inc, up 16.2 percent to $4.51; and Apple Inc , up 0.5 percent to $102.06, were among the most actively traded.
Vivus rose after an erectile-dysfunction drug it co-developed was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Advancing issues were outnumbering declining ones on the NYSE by 1,895 to 1,034, for a 1.83-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,695 issues were rising and 883 falling for a 1.92-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 44 new 52-week highs and 7 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 58 new highs and 35 new lows. (Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)