Stocks Rally on Economic Data, Europe Hopes

U.S. stocks rose more than 1% on Thursday to close at multiyear highs, as the U.S. economy showed further signs of recovery and Europe’s credit markets show improvement, The Dow industrials rose 123.13 points, or 0.96%, to 12,904.08, their best since May 2008 and less than 100 points from 13,000. The Nasdaq rose 44.02 points, or 1.51%, to 2,959.85, its best level since December 2000. The S&P 500 Index gained 14.81 points, or 1.10%, to 1,358.04.

The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest level in almost four years. The Labor Department on Thursday said jobless claims decreased by 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000 in the week ended Feb. 11.

U.S. wholesale prices rose slightly in January spurred by higher costs of pharmaceutical drugs, but food and fuel prices fell. The producer price index rose a seasonally adjusted 0.1% last month, the Labor Department said Thursday.

New construction of U.S. houses rose in January. Housing starts for January rose 1.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 699,000, according to an estimate from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Greece expects to get approval on Monday from euro zone finance ministers to begin a debt swap with private bondholders, a spokesman for the Greek government said, moving closer to averting a disorderly default.

Crude settled at a six-week high Thursday. Crude for March delivery rose 51 cents, or 0.5%, to $102.31 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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