U.S. Markets

US stocks ended higher on Thursday as investors are shrugged off bad news and focused on some positive developments from the US corporate sector.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 84.54 points, or 0.70 percent, at 12,170.56. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 12.12 points, or 0.93 percent, at 1,309.66. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 38.12 points, or 1.41 percent, at 2,736.42.

Weekly unemployment claims, reported at 8:30 a.m. EST, came in better than expected at 382,000 compared with the revised figure of 387,000 in the previous week, while markets had expected the jobless claims to fall to 384,000 in the week.

Meanwhile, new orders for manufactured durable goods in February fell by 0.9 percent on lower sales of heavy machinery and defense-related products, while economists expected 1 percent gain. Excluding transportation, orders fell 0.6 percent.

News coming out of corporate sector continues to be positive as solid earnings and M&A activities impress investors.

AT&T (NYSE:T) was upgraded today after its acquisition of T-Mobile on the expected synergies between the two companies.

Walgreens (NYSE:WAG) announced it will buy Drugstore.com (NASDAQ:DSCM) for about $409 million.

Micron Technology (NASDAQ:MU) surged 8.39 percent after it reported upbeat earnings.

Red Hat Inc. (NYSE:RHT) shares climbed 18.24 percent after reporting fourth quarter net income of $51.4 million or $0.26 per share compared to $36.5 million or $0.19 per share in the same period a year-ago.

Meanwhile, crude oil remains above $105 per barrel as civil war continues to rage on in Libya.

U.S. Futures

Futures on the S&P 500 are up 0.36 percent, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are up 0.32 percent and Nasdaq100 futures are up 0.35 percent.

The euro declined 0.18 percent to 1.4151 against the dollar and the yen declined 0.38 percent. Crude oil futures advanced 0.04 percent to $105.64 a barrel and gold futures declined 0.06 percent.

European Markets

European stock markets wavered between small gains and losses in early trade on Friday as better-than-expected forecast from Oracle and Accenture offset eurozone debt concerns.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index advanced 0.01 percent to 275.80. DAX30 gained 31.15 points or 0.45 percent to 6,964.73 and FTSE 100 gained 12.65 points or 0.22 percent to 5,893.52, while
CAC 40 declined 1.53 points or 0.04 percent 3,967.31.

SAP AG gained 2.6 percent to 43.34 euros after its rival Oracle corp. reported better-than-estimated earnings on late Thursday. SAP stock was upgraded to “overweight” rating from “neutral” rating at HSBC.

Accenture Plc. gained 5.68 percent to 38.55 euros as its third-quarter sales forecast topped estimates. The company expects third-quarter sales to be in the range of $6.3 billion to $6.5 billion, while analysts expected sales of $6.08 billion.

Among mining stocks, Lonmin Plc. gained 1.49 percent and Randgold Resources Ltd. advanced 1.14 percent.

Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc. advanced 3.17 after the company stock was upgraded to “buy” rating from “neutral” rating.

Asian Markets

Asian stock markets ended higher on Friday, following gains in the Wall Street overnight on back of better-than-expected jobless claims data and higher corporate earnings.

Japanese stocks advanced, led by gains from auto makers and reconstruction-related companies’ shares. Benchmark Nikkei advanced 1.07 percent or 101.12 points to 9,536.13.

Among the automakers, Nissan Motor advanced 1.49 percent to 681 yen and Toyota Motor gained 1.86 percent to 3,275 yen after announcing resumption of production.

Shares of Tokyo Electric Power, Japan's biggest utility and operator of the Fukushima nuclear-power plant, declined 2.43 percent to 880 yen.

Komatsu Ltd. advanced 1.49 percent to 2,710 yen on expectations for reconstruction demand as well as higher resource prices.

Sony Corp. advanced 3.29 percent to 2,634 yen after the company stock was upgraded to “buy” rating from “hold” rating on expectations of rising sales in its chip and gaming businesses.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 243.39 points or 1.06 percent to 23,158.67 and Chinese Shanghai composite gained 1.07 percent or 31.58 points to 2,978.29. Bank of China gained 2.64 percent to HK$4.27 after the company said its full year profit rose 29 percent to 104.4 billion yuan, while analysts’ expected net profit of 99 billion yuan.

South Korean shares advanced, led by gains from Samsung Electronics and Woori finance. Seoul composite advanced 17.26 points or 0.85 percent to 2,054.04. Samsung Electronics surged 3.4 percent on news that the company may raise prices of its DRAM chips and Woori Finance advanced 2.84 percent.