* Jobless claims fall, housing starts accelerate
* EBay gains after results beat expectations
* Bank of America, Citigroup results weigh on financials
* Indexes up: S&P 0.61 pct, Dow 0.56 pct, Nasdaq 0.55 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Wall Street rose on Thursday,
with the S&P 500 climbing to a five-year intraday high, on
improved housing and jobs data along with 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 stimulate 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 real estate numbers all look good, sales looked good,
prices looked good, housing starts looked good," said Stephen
Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.
"The only thing that still doesn't look really good in my
mind are the employment numbers but even the claims were pretty
good and inflation seems to be nonexistent so what's to stop the
party from going?"
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 82.97 points,
or 0.61 percent, to 13,594.20. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
advanced 8.31 points, or 0.56 percent, to 1,480.94. The
Nasdaq Composite Index rose 17.12 points, or 0.55
percent, to 3,134.66.
PulteGroup Inc shares gained 4.9 percent to $20.29
and Toll Brothers Inc advanced 2.2 percent to $35.68.
The PHLX housing sector index climbed 2.1 percent.
EBay's shares rose 3 percent to $54.47 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 4.3 percent to $11.27 and
Citigroup off 3 percent to $41.22 after they posted their
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 0.14 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 shed 0.4 percent to $74.05 and is down 1.5 percent for
the week so far.
Market breadth was solid, with advancers outpacing decliners
on the New York Stock Exchange 2,234 to 650, while on the Nasdaq
the ratio was 1,602 to 762 in favor of advancing stocks.