U.S. Markets

U.S. stocks gained for the third consecutive day on Friday as investors shook off global fears and focused instead on upbeat earnings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 50.03 points, or 0.41 percent, to end at 12,220.59. The S&P 500 index climbed 4.14 points, or 0.32 percent, to close at 1,313.80. The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.24 percent.

Economic data was positive on Friday as final fourth quarter 2010 GDP was upwardly revised to 3.1 percent from 2.8 percent. For the week, however, data was disappointing as new home sales, existing home sales, and durable goods orders were sharply below expectations.

Meanwhile, global uncertainties loom: radiation scares from Japan remain, the conflict in the Middle East/North Africa rages on (oil futures remain elevated at $105 per barrel), and investors continue to shun Portuguese sovereign debt.

Nevertheless, the sell-off triggered by Japan’s earthquake two weeks ago may be overdone as investors continue to scoop up bargains.

On the corporate front, Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ:ORCL) shares gained 1.56 percent to $32.64 as the company reported better-than-estimated earnings on late Thursday. Adjusted profit for the third quarter was $2.8 billion or 54 cents a share, up from $1.9 billion or 38 cents a share last year. Revenue rose 37 percent to $8.8 billion. Analysts had expected profit of 50 cents a share on revenue of $8.67 billion.

Research In Motion Limited (NASDAQ:RIMM) shares plunged 11.23 percent to $56.89 as it guided first quarter guidance below Street view. The BlackBerry maker said it expects first quarter earnings of $1.47 to $1.55 a share and revenue of $5.2 billion to $5.6 billion, while Street predicts profit of $1.65 a share on revenue of $5.64 billion. For full year 2012, the company expects earnings in excess of $7.50 a share, while Street predicts $6.81 a share.

European Markets

European stock markets ended higher on Friday after government data showed that US economic activity grew at a faster-than-forecast pace.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index advanced 0.09 percent to 276.02. DAX30 gained 12.78 points or 0.18 percent to 6,946.36 and FTSE 100 gained 19.89 points or 0.34 percent to 5,900.76, while
CAC 40 advanced 3.94 points or 0.09 percent 3,972.38.

SAP AG gained 1.93 percent to 43.035 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 5.89 percent to 38.62 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 1.07 percent and Randgold Resources Ltd. advanced 0.53 percent.

Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc. advanced 3.13 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.