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Stocks Jump on Signs Economy Is Getting Stronger


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Major U.S. stock averages rallied Thursday, as better-than-expected economic reports outweighed disappointing quarterly results from Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C) .

Although bank results were dominating the fourth-quarter earnings headlines, investors were also gearing up for chipmaker Intel's(INTC) . The company reported fourth-quarter income of 48 cents a share on $13.48 billion in revenue. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected 45 cents a share on $13.53 billion in revenue. The stock was the biggest gainer in the Dow ahead the announcement, increasing 2.6% during Thursday's session.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared 85 points, or 0.63%, to 13,596. The blue-chip index has been up for five days out of six.

Breadth was positive, with winners outpacing losers 24 to six. Walt Disney (DIS) , Verizon (VZ) , Home Depot (HD) and Intel shares made their way to the top.

UnitedHealth(UNH) shares rose 1.4% after the company booked in-line fourth-quarter earnings of $1.20 a share on revenue of $28.77 billion. Analysts, on average, were expecting revenue of $28.2 billion.

Bank of America, JPMorgan (JPM) , Wal-Mart(WMT) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) were the biggest percentage blue-chip decliners.

Boeing(BA) shares climbed 1.2% despite the company's 787 Dreamliner being grounded worldwide on safety concerns.

Hewlett-Packard(HPQ) shares slipped 0.58% after Wednesday's advance on a news report that potential purchasers are evaluating the company's Autonomy and EDS units .

The S&P 500 advanced 8 points, or 0.56%, to 1,481. The benchmark index traded at a five-year high at its intraday high of 1485.16.

The Nasdaq tacked on 18 points, or 0.59%, to 3,136.

In economic news, the Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims for the week ended Jan. 12 were 335,000, a decrease of 37,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 372,000 and the lowest since Jan. 19, 2008. The four-week moving average was 359,250, a decrease of 6,750 from the previous week's average of 366,000.

On average, economists were expecting initial jobless claims to slide to 365,000 and continuing claims to increase to 3.159 million.

Also, the Census Bureau said housing starts rose in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 954,000 from a downwardly revised 851,000 in November. Building permits rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 903,000 from an upwardly revised 900,000.

Economists were expecting housing starts to rise to a rate of 890,000 and building permits to come in at a rate of 903,000.

"We consider today's report quite strong," Jan Hatzius, the chief U.S. economist at Goldman Sachs, said of the claims numbers. "Overall, this morning's numbers on housing starts and permits were a positive surprise, and are consistent with continued broad improvement in housing market activity."

The housing and labor market data were strong "even though claims does have some caveats with adjustments, so the grand strength is challenged a bit," said David Ader, a strategist with CRT.