In the past three trading sessions, the S&P index has closed above and below its starting point for the year. On Thursday it regained bragging rights, but only by a touch. Having started the year at 1,257.64 points, the index closed Thursday at 1,263.02, up 1.07 percent on a gain of 13.38 points.
The National Association of Realtors said pending contracts rose by 7.3 percent in November after a 10.4 percent month-to-month gain in October.
The Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose by 15,000 in the week ending Saturday to 381,000, but layoffs are expected as the Christmas shopping season winds down, so the figure was not viewed as drastic.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average closed with a gain of 135.63 points, 1.12 percent, to 12,287.04. The Nasdaq composite index gained 23.76, or 0.92 percent, to 2,613.74.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 2,394 stocks advanced and 652 declined on a volume of 2.1 billion shares traded.
The benchmark 10-year treasury note rose 5/32 to yield 1.904 percent.
The euro rose to $1.296 from Wednesday's $1.2941. Against the yen, the dollar fell to 77.62 yen from Wednesday's 77.94 yen.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index shed 0.29 percent, 24.73, to 8,398.89.
In London, the FTSE 100 index gained 1.08 percent, 59.37, to 5,566.77.
Jordana Brewster on Paul Walker: 'He was an enormous presence in my life'
Beyonce flaunts bikini body, Blue Ivy in vacation pics