News that more Americans are poised to buy homes and hopes that the job market is primed for growth sent stocks higher Thursday.
The four-week average of unemployment claims fell to a three-and-a-half-year low of 375,000, an indication that hiring could pick up.
The National Association of Realtors says its index of agreements to buy homes jumped 7.3 percent last month. Quincy Krosby, Prudential Financial’s market strategist, said the report was an encouraging signal for the overall economy going in to 2012.
The positive housing news sent the stocks of home builders sharply higher. Masco Corp. soared over 5 percent, and was the largest gainer in the S&P 500. PulteGroup Inc. and Lennar Corp. both rose above 4 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 108 points, or 0.9 percent, at 12,259 as of 2:40 p.m. The S&P 500 rose 10 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,259.