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Housing, job-market data push S&P to 5-year high

Stronger-than-expected data on US housing and jobless claims lit a fire under stocks on Thursday, pushing the S&P 500 to a five-year high and its third day of gains. Shares of chipmaker Intel rose in extended-hours trading after the company forecast better-than-expected first-quarter gross margins. Intel gained 1.85% after closing up 2.6% at $22.68. Semiconductor shares rose 2% to the highest close in eight months. A pair of economic reports lifted investor sentiment. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low last week and housing starts jumped last month to the highest since June 2008.

Nikkei sees longest weekly winning streak since 1987

Japan's Nikkei share average surged 2.9% to complete 10 straight weeks of gains, its longest winning streak since 1987, as heightened expectations of central bank easing early next week put further downward pressure on the yen. The Nikkei advanced 303.66 points on Friday as it produced its biggest one-day percentage gain in 22 months. Friday's advance allowed the Nikkei to have a 1% gain for the week. Exporters led the pack, with Toyota Motor Corp adding 2.1%, Honda Motor up 3.2% and Panasonic Corp climbing 5.3%.

'Sebi yet to receive all papers in Sahara case'

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) on Friday said it is yet to receive all papers in the high-profile Sahara case where the Supreme Court has directed two group companies to refund money to bondholders. Sebi chairman UK Sinha said it is fully competent to verify the documents related to the case, with regard to checking the genuineness of the bondholders of two Sahara Group companies. "Sebi is fully competent to verify. It has got its agencies in place and it will do its task on time, provided all the information papers are given to us."

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