NEW YORK, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks rose Thursday on positive jobs and housing data, with S&P 500 Index closing at the highest level since late 2007, shrugging off four-day lackluster trading.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average moved up 84.86 points, or 0.63 percent, to 13,596.09. The broader S&P 500 Index gained 8.30 points, or 0.56 percent, to 1,480.93. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index rose 18.46 points, or 0.59 percent, to 3,136.00.
U.S. claims for jobless benefits plummeted to 335,000 last week, the lowest since January 2008, from 372,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The weekly number was much lower than economists had expected.
Meanwhile, U.S. housing starts in December surged 12.1 percent to a 954,000-unit annual rate, the fastest pace in over four years, according to data released Thursday by the Commerce Department. The continuing recovery in the housing market has been providing a substantial boost to the U.S. economy.
The market saw little reaction to a negative Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey. The January Survey ticked down to an index reading of -5.8. Economists expected the index to rise to 5. 6 from last month's reading of 4.6.
Two big lenders posting earnings before opening bell failed to provide supports to the market, with Bank of America delivering mixed results and Citigroup missing expectations.
Bank of America fell 4.12 percent after the second largest U.S. bank by assets reported net income of 732 million U.S. dollars, or 3 cents per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2012, sharply down from 1.991 billion dollars or 15 cents per diluted share in the year-ago period. Rather, the earnings in the fourth quarter were slightly higher than market estimate of 2 cents per share.
Citigroup slipped 2.90 percent, as the third biggest U.S. bank by assets said that its net income added to 1.2 billion dollars in the fourth quarter, or 38 cents a share, from 956 million dollars, or 31 cents a share, a year before. Markets analysts had estimated earnings of 96 cents a share.
Soon afterwards, several other notable financials are scheduled to report their earnings results, with American Express and Capital One reporting after Thursday's closing bell, and Morgan Stanley posting report ahead of Friday's opening bell.
Homebuilder and construction materials benefited from sustained recovery of housing market. Lennar rallied 3.53 percent while Toll Brothers jumped 3.61 percent.
Boeing turned into positive territory in afternoon trading, gaining 1.24 percent at last, after reports indicated a faulty battery had been identified as the cause of electrical issues with Dreamliner 787.
EBay extended gains, jumping 2.40 percent, one day after the online marketplace reported it earned 927 million dollars, or 70 cents a share in fourth quarter, up 16.7 percent from a year earlier.
Looking to Friday's earnings reports, General Electric will report its quarterly results prior to opening bell.
Light, sweet crude for February delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Thursday gained 1.33 percent to settle at 95.49 dollars a barrel on better-than-expected initial claims and housing starts. Brent crude for March delivery rose by 1.29 percent to close at 111.10 dollars a barrel.
The U.S. dollar traded mixed against major currencies on Thursday. The dollar fell versus the euro as Spain's borrowing cost dropped but rebounded against Japanese yen.
Besides, gold for February delivery on the COMEX edged up 0.45 percent to settle at 1,690.8 dollars per ounce, boosted by optimism spreading across equity market.