S&P 500 surges on housing starts, jobless claims

Strong reports on housing starts and jobless claims raised investor hopes about the economy Thursday, pushing major indexes higher. Builders started work on homes in December at the fastest pace since the summer of 2008, the Commerce Department said. Home builder stocks rose amid the news. The number of Americans seeking jobless benefits fell 37,000 to 335,000 last week — a five-year low — the Labor Department reported, the latest sign the market is healing. The decline was bigger than economists had forecast. The reports helped counter disappointment over fourth-quarter earnings from Citigroup and Bank of America.