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Overnight Markets: US stocks jump on upbeat housing data

Shares also gained as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke remained steadfast in supporting the Fed's stimulus policy in a second day before a congressional committee.

 
Overnight Markets: US stocks jump on upbeat housing data

Wall Street gained on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising to the highest level in five years, as better-than-estimated housing data bolstered economic optimism Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke remained steadfast in supporting the Fed's stimulus policy.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 176 points, or 1.27%, at 14,076. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 19 points, or 1.27%, at 1,516. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 33 points, or 1.04%, at 3,162.

Shares rose after Bernanke defended the Fed's buying of bonds to keep interest rates low to boost growth in a second day before a congressional committee, Bernanke defended the Fed's buying of bonds to keep interest rates low to boost growth.

Better-than-expected data on business spending plans and the housing market contributed to the positive sentiment. Pending home sales jumped 4.5% in January, three times the rate of growth that had been expected.

While orders for durable goods fell more than expected in January, non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft showed the biggest gain since December 2011.

FedEx Corp., operator of the world’s largest cargo airline and an economic bellwether, added 2.5% to pace gains in transportation shares.

In earnings news, Priceline.com rose 2.6% after reporting adjusted earnings that beat expectations. TJX Cos Inc jumped 2.5% after the retail chain operator posted higher fourth-quarter results.

On the negative side, Target Corp dipped 1.1% as it offered a cautious outlook for consumer spending in 2013 following a weak holiday quarter.

First Solar Inc plunged 14% after failing to give a full-year earnings and sales outlook, though it also swung to a quarterly profit.

Groupon Inc tumbled 21% after the bell after reporting its fourth-quarter results.

In Asia, shares gained on Thursday as better-than-estimated US economic data bolstered confidence in the global recovery.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 0.9% to 134 as of 10:35 a.m. in Tokyo. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average advanced 1.9% after a report showed the nation’s industrial production rose for a second month in January. South Korea’s Kospi Index increased 1% even as the country’s factory output unexpectedly dropped last month.

Australia’s ASX 200 Index gained 0.7%, while New Zealand NZX 50 Index added 0.8% and Singapore’s Straits Times Index rose 0.4 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index increased 0.9% and China’s Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.1%.

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