NEW YORK: Stock gains on Thursday propelled the Standard & Poor’s 500 index to its highest finish since late 2007 as upbeat jobs and housing reports offered a respite from politics and other concerns.
“The fact that housing is so robust is really good, and jobless claims were a lot lower than expected,” said David Kelly, chief market strategist at JPMorgan Funds. Both data points “show an economy with a fair amount of momentum going into the new year, and that’s positive,” he added.
The Dow Jones Transportation Average rose as investors adopted a “buy the break” mentality. The index of 20 transport companies including shippers FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc., as well as airlines and trucking firms, is viewed as an indicator of economic activity.
The gains came after data had housing starts rising more than anticipated and jobless claims dropping to a five-year low, helping propel home builders and other consumer-discretionary companies to robust gains.
Rising above the 1,474 resistance level, the S&P 500 index rallied 8.31 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,480.94, its highest close since Dec. 26, 2007.
After a 122-point surge, the Dow Jones industrial average ended at 13,596.02, up 84.79 points, or 0.6 percent.
The Nasdaq composite index rose 18.46 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,136.
Economic news buoyed the mood on Wall Street. The Commerce Department reported housing starts jumped 12.1 percent in December, the biggest gain since June 2008.
“The residential data was a big surprise; we expected a gain, but we did not expect that gain,” said Elizabeth Ptacek, senior vice president and a senior credit real estate analyst at KeyBank.
Separately, the Labor Department reported applications for jobless benefits last week declined by 37,000 to 335,000, the lowest level since January 2008.
Dow gainers included Intel Corp., up 2.6 percent after releasing fourth-quarter earnings just before the close.
Bank of America Corp. lost 4.2 percent after the lender reported a 63 percent decline in fourth-quarter profit.
Boeing Co. shares rose 1.2 percent, reversing losses that came after U.S. regulators ordered its global fleet of 787 Dreamliners grounded after one of the planes made an emergency landing, the latest in a series of mishaps.
Off the Dow, shares of CBS Corp. jumped 7.9 percent after the media company said it would convert its outdoor advertising unit to a real-estate investment trust and would solicit a buyer for those Asian and European units.