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US futures mixed before housing data

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March 21, 2013 09:16 AM EST | AP

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NEW YORK — U.S. stock futures were mixed Thursday, with the government reported that the number of people applying for unemployment benefits last week barely moved.

Dow Jones industrial futures rose 16 points to 14,424. S&P futures have tacked on 0.60 points to 1,550. Nasdaq futures slipped 2.25 points to 2,783.

The Labor Department said that assistance applications rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000, which is better than most had expected.

Economists rely more on the four-week average, and that number actually fell 7,500 to 339,750.

It's the smallest number of applications since February 2008, which was about the time that the economy began to seize up.

The employment picture is improving in part because the nation's housing sector has bounced back so quickly.

Homebuilding permits jumped to their highest level in 4 1/2 years in February, and the National Association of Realtors is expected to report after the market opens Thursday that sales of previously owned homes rose last month to a seasonally adjusted rate of nearly 5 million.

At least five homebuilders saw their shares hit new annual highs Wednesday.

KB Home, the country's fifth-largest homebuilder, topped Wall Street expectations for the first quarter and reported a jump in new home orders on Thursday.

Shares of the Los Angeles company jumped 3 percent before the opening bell, putting its shares on pace to reach five-year highs when trading starts.