US stocks put on solid gains Thursday after two flat days helped by fresh employment and housing data and German Chancellor Angela Merkel\'s supportive comments in Canada for the European Central Bank. But social networking giant Facebook hit a new low, sinking below $20 for the first time as the quiet period for early investors ended, and Manchester United, which went public last Friday, closed below its IPO price for the first time. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 85.33 points (0.65 percent) at 13,250.11. The broader S&P 500 index added 9.98 (0.71 percent) to 1,415.51, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq surged 31.46 points (1.04 percent) to 3,062.39. The market got a boost from weekly numbers for new unemployment insurance claims, which held up the promising pace of the past four months. Meanwhile July data on new housing construction, although slightly down from June, gave a picture of an industry steadily picking up pace. \"The market for new construction is back on track,\" said Patrick Newport, US economist at IHS Global Insight. \"But the recovery is proving to be a slow one... We are expecting this slow pace to continue for about another year.\" Also behind the gains were Merkel\'s comments on a visit to Ottawa in which she gave solid backing for the ECB and appeared to back ECB President Mario Draghi\'s vow to do everything possible to defend the euro. Some traders saw that as evidence that Merkel may be warming to the idea of the ECB buying bonds of weak eurozone countries if they meet tough conditions. Verizon slipped 0.2 percent after the Justice Department cleared its $3.6 billion deal to buy wireless spectrum from major cable television rivals. Nasdaq earned a boost from Cisco, which rose 9.6 percent on a strong fiscal first-quarter report and an announcement of a 75 percent dividend hike. Walmart shares sank 3.1 percent after the company said its third quarter earnings might fall short of current analyst estimates. The world\'s largest retailer turned in a second quarter profit that was up 5.7 percent from a year earlier. Facebook shares plunged 6.3 percent to $19.87 as the lockup period for sales by pre-IPO investors ended. The company\'s share price has sunk ever since the disastrous May 18 initial share offering at $38. Legendary football team Manchester United, which went public in New York last Friday, closed below its IPO price for the first time, ending at $13.77. US bond prices fell for a third straight day. The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 1.84 percent from 1.80 percent on Wednesday; the 30-year gained 2.96 percent from 2.91 percent. Bond yields move inversely to prices.