Stocks rallied Thursday and bonds fell, as investors ignored a weak report from the Philadelphia Fed, which showed a plunge in new orders and a surprise contraction in manufacturing activity.
"The stuff coming out of the manufacturing sector is just as confusing as the stuff coming out [of] the construction and housing sector," Knapp said.
Traders said some of the buying activity was related to Friday's options expiration. The Dow jumped 92 points to 16,133 and the S&P 500 was up 11 at 1,839.
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"I think it's a very choppy picture in the very short term but housing is basically in good, solid shape from an intermediate point of view," said Dick Hoey, BNY Mellon's chief economist. He said it's a positive that the housing market has cleared out a lot of inventory.
"When the rates spiked up, you kind of calmed down that intensity of strength and now the rates have come off a little bit. If you think about the spring season, going into summer, you've got fairly moderate mortgage rates and assuming the economy starts to come back in the spring, you'll start to get the psychology of 'gee, this is a chance to get reasonable mortgage rates.' "
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He said he sees a lot of pent up demand for housing, which will get stronger as hiring picks up.
Besides home sales, there are also a few earnings Friday, including Charter Communications, Dish Network, Echostar, Eldorado Gold and Agrium. Other companies reporting include Pinnacle West, Graham Holdings and Starz.