Stocks rise after better housing, jobless data
NEW YORK — Stocks closed higher Thursday, pushing the Standard & Poor’s 500 index to another five-year high, after strong reports on housing starts and unemployment claims made investors more optimistic about the U.S. economy.
The S&P 500 rose 8.31, or 0.6 percent, to 1,480.94. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 84.79, or 0.8 percent, to 13,596.02. The Nasdaq composite index rose 18.46, or 0.6 percent, to 3,136.
Taxpayers ease banks’ cost in mortgage deal
WASHINGTON — Consumer advocates have complained that U.S. mortgage lenders are getting off easy in a deal to settle federal complaints that they wrongfully foreclosed on many homeowners.
Now it turns out the deal is even sweeter for the lenders than it appears: Taxpayers will subsidize them for the money they’re ponying up. The Internal Revenue Service regards the lenders’ compensation to homeowners as a cost incurred in the course of doing business: Result: It’s fully tax-deductible.
Intel’s 4Q profit down, but beats expectations
NEW YORK — Intel Corp., the world’s largest chipmaker, on Thursday said its fourth-quarter net income fell 27 percent from the previous year, as PC sales continued to weaken.
Net income was $2.47 billion, or 48 cents per share, for the October to December period. Intel beat expectations for the quarter. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting earnings of 45 cents per share. Revenue fell 3 percent to $13.5 billion, matching analyst expectations.
U.S. home construction in ‘12 highest in 4 years
WASHINGTON — U.S. builders started work on homes in December at the fastest pace in 4½ years and finished 2012 as their best year for residential construction since the early stages of the housing crisis.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that builders broke ground on houses and apartments last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 954,000. That’s 12.1 percent higher than November’s annual rate. And it is nearly double the recession low reached in April 2009. Construction increased last month for both single-family homes and apartments.
For the year, builders started work on 780,000 homes. That’s still roughly half of the annual number of starts consistent with healthier markets. But it is an increase of 28.1 percent from 2011.
Amazon opening MP3 catalog to iPhone users
SEATTLE — Amazon said Thursday that iPhone and iPod Touch users now can buy music from its digital store for the first time. Amazon’s MP3 library has 22 million songs available.
Steve Boom, vice president of Amazon Music, says that since the launch of the Cloud Player app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, customers have been asking for the ability to buy music from Amazon directly from their devices.
Port labor talks making progress, official says
Recent talks between shipowners and dockworkers have made progress in framing a new labor contract, but negotiations will continue, an official said Thursday.
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen issued a statement saying the U.S. Maritime Alliance and the International Longshoremen’s Association have “made progress and have agreed” that the negotiations will continue.
The ILA and the alliance, which represents shipping lines, terminal operators and port associations, have been tangled in contract talks for several months. The union last month threatened to strike and cripple more than a dozen ports, including Charleston’s, but that was averted.
Staff and wire reports