US STOCKS-Wall Street strikes new high as housing data fuels optimism

By Noel Randewich

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* U.S. housing starts race to 13-year high in December

* Billionaire David Tepper bullish on U.S. equities

* Indexes: Dow +0.08%, S&P 500 +0.22%, Nasdaq +0.08% (Updates to afternoon)

By Noel Randewich

Jan 17 (Reuters) - Wall Street edged up to record highs on Friday after strong U.S. housing data and signs of resilience in the Chinese economy raised hopes of a rebound in global growth.

Market sentiment brightened further this week after the United States and China sealed a Phase 1 trade deal, pausing an 18-month tariff dispute that has weighed on financial markets globally.

The main indexes were on track to end with weekly gains of over 1.5% in what could be their strongest performance in 2020.

Earlier in the day, data showed China ended 2019 on a somewhat firmer note, even as economic growth cooled to its weakest in nearly 30 years.

Meanwhile, U.S. homebuilding surged to a 13-year high in December, suggesting the housing market recovery was back on track amid low mortgage rates.

"The macro data points both here and abroad have been relatively positive," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

"That is creating an increased sense of optimism going into not just the earnings, but also guidance which is far more important at this point for both Q1 and fiscal 2020."

Analysts expect earnings at S&P 500 companies to drop 0.8% in the fourth quarter, but forecast a 5.8% rise in the first quarter of 2020, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Many investors expect companies to be more upbeat about the future following the truce in the China-U.S. trade war.

"We think the most important thing this earnings season will be what CEOs say about their outlooks," said Scott Ladner, chief investment officer at Horizon Investments in Charlotte. "That always matters, but we think that because of the speed at which some of these global uncertainties have been resolved, it's unlikely we will see those things coming through in the numbers."

Billionaire David Tepper, who founded hedge fund Appaloosa Management, told CNBC that he remains bullish on U.S. equities.

"We have been long and continue that way," he said.

At 2:42 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.08% at 29,321 points, while the S&P 500 gained 0.22% to 3,323.95.

The Nasdaq Composite added 0.08% to 9,364.46.

In a thin day for earnings, oilfield service provider Schlumberger NV reported a slightly better-than-expected quarterly profit, but its stock dipped 1.1%.

Google-parent Alphabet Inc rose 1.2%, extending gains after it became the fourth U.S. company to top a market value of $1 trillion on Thursday.

Technology majors including Visa Inc, Apple Inc and Qualcomm Inc provided among the top boosts to the S&P 500.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.23-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.19-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 123 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 195 new highs and 10 new lows. (Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Susan Mathew in Bengaluru Editing by Nick Zieminski)