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January 18, 2013

S&P surges on housing starts

NEW YORK — The Standard and Poor’s 500 index climbed to another five-year high after strong reports on housing starts and unemployment claims made investors more optimistic about the U.S. economy.

The S&P 500 gained 8.31 points to close at 1,480.94, its highest level since December 2007. The Dow Jones industrial average also rose, climbing to a five-year high during the day, before falling back to finish 84.79 points higher at 13,596.02. The Nasdaq composite climbed 18.46 points to 3,136.

U.S. builders started work on homes in December at the fastest pace since the summer of 2008, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Homebuilder stocks rose broadly following the report. The S&P 500’s homebuilding index climbed 3.8 percent, its biggest gain in almost a month. PulteGroup led the advance with a jump of $1.03, or 5.3 percent, to $20.37.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low last week, the Labor Department reported, the latest sign that the job market is healing. Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell 37,000 to 335,000, a bigger decline than economists had forecast, according to financial data provider FactSet.

The reports helped offset disappointment over the fourth-quarter earnings reports of two of the nation’s biggest banks, Citigroup and Bank of America, said JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade.

“The financial stocks are having a tough time impressing the Street with anything,” Kinahan said.

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