Stocks Rise After Better Housing, Jobless Reports

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Stocks are rising at midday, pushing the Standard and Poor's 500 to another five-year high.

Strong reports on housing starts and unemployment claims made investors more optimistic about the U.S. economy.

The S&P 500 gained seven points to 1,479 shortly before noon Thursday. Earlier, it climbed as high as 1,480, its highest level since December 2007.

The Dow Jones industrial average also rose, gaining 67 points to 13,578. The Nasdaq composite rose 17 points to 3,134.

U.S. builders started work on homes in December at the fastest pace since the summer of 2008, the Commerce Department said. Homebuilder stocks rose broadly following the report.

Also, the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low last week.

EBay rose after reporting higher earnings.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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