Housing Starts Rise, Markets Advance

Upbeat housing start data along with a drop in jobless claims boosted the markets sharply higher during the midday with the Dow surging 119 points to 12,900. Nasdaq leaped 40 points to 2956.

On the upside

Kinross Gold (NYSE: KGC) increased its dividend to 8 cents per common share from 6 cents per common share prompting an upgrade.

Fourth quarter earnings for TRW Automotive (NYSE: TRW) doubled to surpass analyst expectations by a wide margin.

Itron (Nasdaq: ITRI) swung to a loss for the fourth quarter but the results beat expectations and the power meter maker said that it will pay approximately $100 million to acquire SmartSynch.

On the downside

Fourth quarter earnings dropped for Ultra Petroleum (NYSE: UPL) to fall short of expectations and the company announced cuts to its capital spending.

Ancestry.com (Nasdaq: ACOM) reported higher fourth quarter earnings that topped estimates but the company forecast current quarter revenue below estimates.

DG (Nasdaq: DGIT) disappointed with sharply lower fourth quarter earnings prompting downgrades.

In the broad market, advancing issues outpaced decliners by a margin of nearly 3 to 1 on the NYSE and by more than 3 to 1 on Nasdaq. The Russell 2000 which tracks small cap stocks soared 14 points to 828.

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