US STOCKS-S&P 500 heads for longest winning streak in 8 yrs

Last Updated: Fri, Jan 25, 2013 20:10 hrs

* New home sales fall in Dec. but 2012 sales stellar

* Procter & Gamble profit improves

* Exxon briefly overtakes Apple in market cap

* Dow up 0.4 pct, S&P up 0.5 pct, Nasdaq up 0.7 pct

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, Jan 25 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Friday, with the S&P 500 on track to close above 1,500 for the first time in more than five years on bullish data from Europe and strong U.S. earnings reports.

The benchmark was on track to extend its winning streak to eight days, the longest since a nine-day run in late 2004.

Data showed sales of new U.S. single-family homes fell in December but rose in 2012 to the highest level since 2009, a sign the troubled U.S. housing market has turned a corner.

"Economic data in the U.S. has been trending higher, albeit modestly. Things are incrementally better," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

"The market was able to move forward despite deterioration in Apple and that's also a positive."

Apple shares dropped 1.2 percent to $444.99, and the iPhone maker was swapping places as the most valuable U.S. company with ExxonMobil Corp through the afternoon.

Adding to the bullish tone, German business morale improved for a third consecutive month in January to its highest in more than six months. In addition, European banks said they will repay the European Central Bank much more than expected of the loans the bank gave them during the crisis.

"Good news in credit markets helps set the stage for (more investment in) riskier assets," Krosby said.

Procter & Gamble shares rose 3.6 percent to $72.99 after the world's top household products maker's quarterly profit soared past expectations. The company also raised its sales and earnings outlook for the fiscal year.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 58.8 points or 0.43 percent, to 13,884.13, the S&P 500 gained 7.85 points or 0.53 percent, to 1,502.67 and the Nasdaq Composite added 23.19 points or 0.74 percent, to 3,153.58.

The benchmark S&P 500 index is up more than 5 percent so far in January. The equity market's strong start this year has been attributed to solid corporate results, an agreement in Washington to extend the government's borrowing power, encouraging signs from the global economy and seasonal inflows into stocks.

Helping to lift the Nasdaq Composite, Starbucks, rose 4.5 percent to $57.01 after the coffee retailer reported stronger-than-expected sales in the United States and Asia. {ID:nL1N0ATH04]

Thomson Reuters data through Friday showed that of the 147 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings, 68 percent exceeded expectations. Since 1994, 62 percent of companies have topped expectations, while the average over the past four quarters stands at 65 percent.

Halliburton Co shares jumped 5 percent to $39.69 after the world's second-largest oilfield services company reported higher-than-expected earnings and sales for the fourth quarter.

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