* Jobless claims fall, housing starts accelerate
* EBay gains after results beat expectations
* Bank of America, Citigroup results weigh on financials
* Indexes up: S&P 0.5 pct, Dow 0.5 pct, Nasdaq 0.6 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Jan 17 Wall Street rose on Thursday,
with the S&P 500 hitting a five-year intraday high, on improved
housing and jobs data as well as better-than-expected results
from online marketplace eBay.
The data showed the number of Americans filing new claims
for unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low last week,
while groundbreaking for homes rose to the fastest pace in four
years last month.
Strength in the housing and labor markets is key to
sustained growth and higher corporate profits. Job market
improvement helps boost consumer spending while a recovery in
housing means more purchases of appliances, furniture and other
household goods as well as a source of employment.
"The unemployment claims were nice, the housing starts were
nice, so that is positive for us. There are some good positive
vibes out there," said Harry Clark, chief executive of Clark
Capital Management Group in Philadelphia.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 69.83 points,
or 0.52 percent, to 13,581.06. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
added 7.31 points, or 0.50 percent, to 1,479.94. The
Nasdaq Composite Index rose 17.74 points, or 0.57
percent, to 3,135.29.
PulteGroup Inc shares gained 2.4 percent to $19.81
and Toll Brothers Inc advanced 1.9 percent to $35.56.
The PHLX housing sector index climbed 1.5 percent.
EBay's shares rose 3 percent to $54.51 a day after it
reported holiday quarter results that just beat Wall Street
expectations. It gave a 2013 forecast that was within analysts'
The S&P is on track for its third consecutive advance, which
pushed the index above an intraday peak set in September to its
highest since December 2007.
But gains were tempered by weakness in the financial sector,
with Bank of America down 3.4 percent to $11.38 and
Citigroup off 2.8 percent to $41.29 after they posted
Bank of America's fourth-quarter profit fell as it took more
charges to clean up mortgage-related problems. Citigroup posted
$2.32 billion of charges for layoffs and lawsuits, while its new
chief executive cautioned the bank needed more time to deal with
The S&P financial sector index slipped 0.06 percent
as the only one of the 10 major S&P sectors to decline.
S&P 500 corporate earnings for the fourth quarter are
expected to rise 2.3 percent, Thomson Reuters data showed.
Expectations for the quarter have fallen considerably since
October when a 9.9 percent gain was estimated.
With investors anticipating the current earnings season to
be lackluster, their focus will be on the corporate earnings
outlook for the months ahead, analysts said.
Shares of Boeing extended recent declines after the
United States and other countries grounded the company's new 787
Dreamliner after a second incident involving battery failure.
Boeing slipped 0.8 percent to $73.77 and is down 1.7 percent for
the week so far.