Home building, jobs reports push Dow higher

Better-than-expected reports on home building and jobs pushed two of the three major stock indexes higher Thursday. The broader market ended mixed.

Better-than-expected reports on home building and jobs pushed two of the three major stock indexes higher Thursday. The broader market ended mixed.

The pace of new home construction quickened last month and the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits fell last week to 414,000, more of an improvement than economists expected. Weekly applications for unemployment have been over 400,000 since April, a rate that suggests job growth is still slow.

Worries that Greece's debt troubles could spread continued to weigh on financial markets. The dollar and U.S government bonds rose as traders moved money into safer investments.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 64.25 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 11,961.52. The Dow is now slightly higher for the week.

The S&P 500 rose 2.22, or 0.2 percent, to 1,267.64. The Nasdaq composite lost 7.76, or 0.3 percent, to 2,623.70. The two are less than 1 percent lower this week.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.92 percent, the lowest since November, from 2.97 percent late Wednesday. Bond yields fall when prices rise.

Home Depot Inc. rose 1.8 percent following the better than expected report on home construction and an upgrade by analysts.

Kroger Co. rose 4.5 percent after the supermarket chain's earnings rose as shoppers paid more for groceries and gas. Winnebago Industries Inc. tumbled 20 percent after the motor home company said profits sank nearly 80 percent in its last quarter.

Not all the economic news was positive. A survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found that manufacturing slowed in that region, one day after a similar report found that manufacturing was slowing in the New York area. A series of weaker economic indicators over the past two months have led some analysts to trim their expectations for the year.

Investors are now starting to expect negative economic news, said Uri Landesdman, president of Platinum Partners, an investment manager in New York. That dulls the impact of each downward sign, he said.

"There's still a feeling out there that even though economic data has been incrementally terrible, businesses are still cooking," Landesman said. He also cautioned that the market could continue to slide until the next batch of corporate earnings reports, which start to come out in mid-July.

Overseas markets dipped for a second day because of fears that Greece will be forced to default on its bonds, an event that could trigger another financial crisis. The Euro Stoxx 50, an index of blue chip companies in countries that use the euro, fell 0.5 percent. Benchmark indexes in Japan and China each closed with losses of more than 1.5 percent.

U.S. stocks have fallen for six straight weeks because of rising concerns that the economy isn't as strong as previously thought. If the S&P 500 closes down this week, it would mark the longest losing streak since the index dropped for eight straight weeks in early 2001 as the dot-com bubble was imploding.

High gas prices and a recession in Japan following its earthquake and nuclear disaster have combined to slow business and consumer spending. The S&P index is down nearly 7 percent since hitting its high for the year on April 29.

Falling stocks outpaced rising ones by a small margin on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated trading volume was 4.1 billion shares.

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