U.S. Markets

U.S. stocks rallied on Thursday, bouncing back from three straight days of losses as better-than-expected reports on jobless claims and Consumer Price Index (CPI) buoyed sentiment, and FedEx Corp. boosted its profit forecast.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 161.21 points, or 1.39 percent, at 11,774.51. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 16.81 points, or 1.34 percent, at 1,273.69. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 19.23 points, or 0.73 percent, at 2,636.05.

After three straight days of losses stocks ended higher amid strong economic reports and bargains hunting.

The applications for jobless benefits in the U.S. fell last week, indicating an improvement in the labor market conditions of the nation. Initial jobless claims in the US dropped by 16,000 to 385,000 compared with the revised figure of 401,000 in the previous week and against markets expectations of 387,000. The 4-week moving average of initial claims decreased 7,000 to 386,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 393,250.

The overall consumer price inflation in the U.S. rose 0.5 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, as energy prices increased sharply. The core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy, rose 0.2 percent in January after increasing against analysts expectations of 0.1 percent gain.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s index of regional manufacturing activity jumped to its highest level since 1984 in March. The index surged to 43.4 in March from 35.9 in February and against economists’ estimation of 32.0.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the troubled nuclear power plants in northeastern Japan, said that high-pressure streams of water shot Thursday evening by plant workers effectively cooled down an overheating spent fuel pool. However, radiation levels detected around the facility have not been reduced. The latest figure indicates that after the water sprat maneuver was completed, radiation level at about 3,600 microsievert per hour, unchanged from before.

On the corporate front, FedEx Corp. (NYSE:FDX) shares gained 3.06 percent as its fourth quarter earnings guidance beats estimates. The company expects fourth quarter earnings to be in the range of $1.66 to $1.83 per share, while analysts’ expected earnings per share of $1.66 per share for the fourth quarter.

Shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) gained 1.4 percent after Credit Suisse started to cover the iPad maker with an outperform rating and set a $500 price target on predictions of strong earnings growth.

Energy stocks powered up as oil prices climbed more than 3.5 percent to above $101 a barrel as unrest continued in the Middle East and North Africa. ExxonMobil gained 2.33 percent and Chevron advanced 2.74 percent.

European Markets

European stock markets advanced to end a six-day losing streak on Thursday on speculation that Group of Seven nations will move to calm volatility in financial markets.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index advanced 1.87 percent to 267.08. DAX30 gained 143.04 points or 2.20 percent to 6,656.88, CAC 40 advanced 89.65 points or 2.43 percent 3,786.21 and the FTSE 100 advanced 97.88 points or 1.75 percent to 5,696.11.

HeidelbergCement AG surged 7.28 percent to 46.885 euros as the company swung to profit in fourth quarter. The company reported fourth quarter net income of 100 million euros compared to a loss of 377 million euros in the same period last year.

Heritage Oil Plc climbed 8.21 percent on news that the company turned down an informal 1.2 billion-pound ($1.9 billion) bid from an unidentified Abu Dhabi- based company.

Siemens AG gained 3.8 percent 89.60 euros after the company stock was upgraded to “buy” rating from “hold” rating at UniCredit.

Lufthansa AG gained 2.30 percent to 13.75 euros as the company swung to profit in 2010, helped by higer revenue. The company reported 2010 net income of 1.3 billion euros compared with a loss of 34 million in 2009. Revenue rose to 27.32 billion from 22.28 billion last year.

Among the insurers, Allianz SE advanced 4.46 percent to 94.75 euros and Axa SA gained 4.61 percent to 13.945 euros.

Asian Markets

Asian stock markets ended lower on Thursday on concerns about the economic impact of worsening nuclear crisis in Japan.

Tokyo shares ended lower for the third time this week, led by declines from exporters’ as yen surges to record 76.25 per dollar before pulling back. Benchmark Nikkei declined 1.44 percent or 131.05 points to 8,962.67.

Among the exporters, Canon Inc. declined 3.34 percent to 3,470 yen and Fanuc Corp. declined 3.97 percent to 11,370 yen, while Sony Corp. declined 0.5 percent.

Among auto makers, Toyota Motor declined 2.24 percent to 3,270 yen and Honda Motor declined 1.13 percent to 3,055 yen, while Nissan Motor declined 1.08 percent to 733 yen.

Shares of Tokyo Electric Power, Japan's biggest utility and operator of the Fukushima nuclear-power plant which suffered an explosion to its No. 3 reactor building after the earthquake, plunged 13.46 percent to 797 yen. The stocks has plummeted nearly 60 percent this week.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined 416.45 points or 1.83 percent to 22,284.43 and Chinese Shanghai composite fell 1.14 percent or 33.51 points to 2,897.30. Air China declined 3.7 percent to HK$6.76 and China Southern Airlines Co. plunged 5.3 percent to HK$3.20.

South Korean shares erased earlier losses and ended flat as gains from blue chips and rallies in crude refiners offset earlier losses. Seoul composite advanced 1.06 points or 0.05 percent to 1,959.03. SK Innovation gained 4.01 percent and GS Holdings advanced 2.35 percent, while Daejung Chemicals & Metals surged 9.58 percent.

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