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Overnight Markets: Economic reports push S&P 500 to five-year high

Overnight Markets: Economic reports push S&P 500 to five-year high

Wall Street gained on Thursday, pushing the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to a five-year high, amid stronger-than-expected data on housing starts and jobless claims.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 85 points, or 0.63%, at 13,596. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up eight points, or 0.56%, at 1,481. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 18 points, or 0.59%, at 3,136.

Shares gained after data showed that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits declined to a five-year low last week and housing starts surged last month to the highest since June 2008.

A separate report showed that manufacturing in the Philadelphia region unexpectedly shrank in January, showing how companies are becoming more concerned about across- the-board US government spending cuts that could slow growth.

Gains in the shares yesterday were tempered by weakness in the financial sector as 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 BofA was down 4.2%, Citigroup was off 2.9%.

Elsewhere, Intel shed 5.2% in extended-hours trading after the company forecast quarterly revenue that fell short of analysts' expectations.

Better-than-expected earnings and revenue reported by online marketplace eBay late Wednesday helped the stock gain 2.7%.

BlackRock Inc. added 4.4% after earnings increased 24% and the firm boosted its dividend and its buyback programme.

In the housing sector, PulteGroup Inc rose 4.9% and Toll Brothers Inc advanced 3.1%.

Energy shares led gains on the Dow after US crude oil prices jumped more than 1%. Shares of Exxon Mobil were up 0.8%, while Chevron added 0.7%.

In Asia, shares gained on Friday in afternoon trade after an upbeat Chinese economic data confirmed a recovery was on track in the world's second largest economy and the yen traded near a 30-month low.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.9% to 132 as of 12:42 p.m. Tokyo time.  China’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.6%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.8%. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average jumped 2.6%, heading for its longest streak of weekly gains since April 1987.

South Korea’s Kospi Index added 0.4%, while Taiwan’s Taiex Index climbed 1%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.3%.

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