NEW YORK - Stocks climbed Wednesday after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, a vote of confidence in the U.S. economy. At the same time, investors were encouraged that the Fed emphasized that further increases will be gradual.

The market was slightly higher at midday and rose steadily through the afternoon after the Fed released its policy statement and as Chair Janet Yellen held a news conference to explain the decision.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 224.18 points, or 1.3 percent, to 17,749.09. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 29.66 points, or 1.5 percent, to 2,073.07. The Nasdaq composite gained 75.77 points, or 1.5 percent, to 5,071.13.

The market finished higher for the third day in a row, something that hadn't happened in almost two months. The S&P 500 is up 3 percent over the last three days.

The biggest gainers were sectors known for paying big dividends. Utilities surged 2.6 percent, while telecommunications and consumer goods makers rose 2 percent.

Only the energy sector finished lower as the price of oil dropped and natural gas continued to fall.

Paul Christopher, head global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute, said investors think big dividend payers might pay even more out to shareholders and buy back more stock, because as interest rates rise, they'll be reluctant to spend a lot of money on equipment.

Stephen Freedman, senior investment strategist at UBS Wealth Management Americas, said the Fed is "taking off the Band-Aid" because the economy has healed substantially.

The boost in interest rates lifted metals prices. The yield on the two-year Treasury note also rose to its highest level in five years.

Oil prices and energy stocks skidded after the U.S. government said oil stockpiles grew 4.8 million barrels last week. The price of oil has plunged to its lowest levels in more than six years because supplies continued to rise as the global economy struggles.

Benchmark U.S. crude dropped $1.83, or 4.9 percent, to close at $35.52 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, lost $1.26, or 3.3 percent, to $37.19 a barrel in London. U.S. crude had climbed over the last two days after falling beneath $35 a barrel Monday.