US STOCKS-S&P 500 hits 3,000 as Powell's comments raise rate cut bets

* Three main Wall Street indexes hit record high

* Fed’s Powell begins two-day testimony before Congress

* Indexes up: Dow 0.27%, S&P 0.32%, Nasdaq 0.46% (Changes comment, adds details, updates prices)

By Medha Singh

July 10 (Reuters) – The benchmark S&P 500 briefly crossed the 3,000 points mark for the first time on Wednesday, as bets for a sharp interest rate cut later this month were boosted by Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell’s dovish comments.

The Nasdaq and the Dow Jones Industrials also hit all-time highs after Powell said the central bank stands ready to “act as appropriate” to support record U.S. economic growth.

Gains of near 1% each in, Apple Inc and Facebook Inc also lifted the Nasdaq and the S&P.

“Investors already got what they wanted when Powell’s statement was released. They got news that the Fed was ready to cut (interest rates) in July,” said Michael Antonelli, market strategist at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.

“What the bulls are really hoping for is that this is just a growth scare. That the Fed steps in with an insurance cut in July and that’s it, so the economy can continue at its ‘muddle-along’ pace of growth.”

Alluding to the strong jobs data that tempered hopes of a sharp rate cut at the end of the month, Powell said the report did not fundamentally change the central bank’s outlook and that there is important economic data before the meeting.

Traders raised the chances of a 50 basis point reduction to 23% following the comments, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool. They had nearly abandoned hopes of an aggressive reduction while still expecting the first U.S. rate cut since the financial crisis at the July 30-31 meeting.

Investors will now parse minutes from the Fed’s June policy

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