(Bloomberg) -- The S&P 500 Index entered a bull market Thursday as stocks rallied back from last year’s lows on optimism the Federal Reserve is nearing the end of its interest-rate hikes.  

The broad equities benchmark rose 0.6% in the session to close at 4,293.93, marking a 20% jump from its Oct. 12 low of 3,577.03. A bull market is typically defined as a rebound of at least 20% from a recent bottom.

Big tech stocks were the big gainers, as they have been for most of the year, with Apple Inc., Nvidia Corp., Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. among the S&P 500’s top performers. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 Index entered a bull market on on March 29 and is up more than 32% this year.

The Fed’s expected decision to pause its rate hikes is the latest trigger to propel stocks higher. Since the central bank signaled last week that it was likely to skip a rate hike at its June 13-14 meeting, the S&P 500 has risen 2.7%, pushing it just past the bull market threshold.

This year’s surge has defied expectations heading into 2023, which generally were for losses in the first six months of the year followed by possible gains in the second half. And skeptics remain despite the rally, with some strategists predicting that the index will end the year lower than it is now, and others are forecasting the gains will fade. 

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