Market Recap: Jobs, Housing Data Carry Stocks Higher

Markets closed up on Wall Street today: Dow +0.96%, S&P +1.10%, Nasdaq +1.51%, Oil +0.49%, Gold +0.10%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) rose to $102.30 a barrel. Precious metals were also up, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) rising to $1,729.80 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) rose 0.26% to settle at $33.50.

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Today’s markets were up because:

1)  Jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor reported today that initial claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to the lowest level in nearly four years, marking the the most substantial evidence of an improving labor market since the national unemployment rate reportedly dropped to 8.3 percent in January.

2) Housing. An unusually mild January helped builders beat forecasts for housing starts, which were up 1.5 percent from December to an annual rate of 699,000, the Commerce Department reported today. Meanwhile, applications for building permits, the best indicator of housing starts in the next two or three months, increased to a 676,000 annual rate.

3) Moody’s. Investors are paying little heed to ratings agencies these days, as financial stocks led today’s rally despite Moody’s putting Credit Suisse (NYSE:CS), UBS (NYSE:UBS), Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) on watch for possible downgrades, to name a few. All of the stocks were trading between 1 percent and 4 percent higher today, largely outperforming the major U.S. indexes.

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