Before the market opened, the Labor Department reported first-time claims for unemployment fell to 335,000 from 372,000, the lowest number since January 2008. Home building also showed recovery post-Superstorm Sandy, with the Census Bureau reporting that housing starts increased 12.1% over the previous month and applications for new building permits up 28.8% from last year’s level.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished ahead 0.63% at 13,596.02, the Nasdaq gained 0.59% to 3,136 and the S&P 500 added 0.56% to 1,480.94.
The positive housing starts data pushed homebuilders and related shares up Thursday. Homebuilders like Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL, +3.6%) and D.R. Horton (NYSE:DHI, +2.5%) headed higher, as did home improvement retailers Lowe’s (NYSE:LOW, +3.4%) and Home Depot (NYSE:HD, +1.9%).
Media conglomerate CBS (NYSE:CBS) soared more than 7% after the company announced it would convert its billboards advertising division into a real estate investment trust and sell its European and Asian outdoor operations.
Shares of online auctioneer and PayPal parent eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) continued to break new all-time highs, heading up more than 2% after announcing solid earnings after the bell Wednesday, helped in part by strong mobile sales. Also in tech, Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) clawed out another 2% amid news that Silver Lake Partners has raised $15 billion toward taking the company private.
Heading the other way was Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), which was the Dow’s biggest loser with a 4% slide after posting a decline in fourth-quarter earnings. Sectormate Citigroup (NYSE:C, -2.9%) disappointed, too — partly because of more than $2 billion in legal and restructuring costs.
After the bell, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), was giving back the 2% gains it made during the day after reporting that Q2 earnings fell 33% while revenues dropped 3%, though its 48-cent profit still beat estimates while its $13.5 billion in sales matched.
- Amarin (NASDAQ:AMRN): Up 10.5% (87 cents) to $9.16.
- Office Depot (NYSE:ODP): Up 5% (20 cents) to $4.23.
- H&R Block (NYSE:HRB): Up 4.9% (95 cents) to $20.34.
- Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP): Down 6.8% (43 cents) to $5.90.
- Williams-Sonoma (NYSE:WSM): Down 5.2% ($2.45) to $44.68.
- Herbalife (NYSE:HLF): Down 3.4% ($1.54) to $43.52.
Marc Bast0w is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he was long GE and INTC.