U.S. Markets

US stocks rallied on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing near three-year highs, as upbeat earnings from major technology companies’ boosted sentiment for corporate-profit trends.

The S&P 500 Index was up 17.74 points, or 1.35 percent, at 1,330.36. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 186.79 points, or 1.52 percent, at 12,453.54, its highest level since June 2008. The Nasdaq Composite Index surged 2.10 percent.

Shares of Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) surged 7.80 percent after forecasting quarterly revenues well above analysts’ estimates. Intel expects second quarter revenue of $12.8 billion, plus or minus $500 million, and adjusted revenue of $12.85 billion, plus or minus $500 million. Street analysts predict revenue of $11.87 billion. Its first quarter net income rose to $3.3 billion or 59 cents a share compared to $2.5 billion or 43 cents a share last year.

Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) shares surged 4.66 percent to $16.87 as its first quarter earnings exceeded Street view. Adjusted profit was $249 million or 19 cents a share, up from $217.1 million or 15 cents a share last year. Analysts had expected profit of 16 cents a share on revenue of $1.06 billion.

On the economic front, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that sales of previously occupied homes rose 3.7 percent to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.1 million units in March from an upwardly revised 4.92 million units in February. Economists had expected existing home sales to gain to the 5.00 million units in March. Year-over-year, existing home sales fell 6.3 percent from 5.44 million in March 2010.

U.S. Futures

Futures on major U.S. indices point to a higher opening on Thursday as strong earnings from Apple Inc. buoyed sentiment.

Futures on the S&P 500 are up 0.58 percent, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are up 0.49 percent and Nasdaq100 futures are up 1.09 percent.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock increased 5.23 percent to $342.41 in the in pre-market trading as its second quarter earnings and revenue exceeded Street view. Profit was $6.0 billion or $6.40 a share, up from $3.1 billion or $3.33 a share last year. Sales rose to $24.7 billion from $13.5 billion. Analysts had expected profit of $5.36 a share on revenue of $23.34 billion.

On the economic front, the Department of Labor is due to report the initial jobless claims data at 8:30 am EDT. The economists forecast initial jobless claims to be 390,000 for the week ended Apr.16 against 412,000 of the previous week. Any data that is weaker than expected will weigh on market sentiments.

The euro advanced 0.62 percent to 1.4612 against the dollar and the yen gained 0.65 percent. Crude oil futures rose 0.63 percent to $112.15 a barrel and gold futures rose 0.58 percent.

European Stocks

European stock markets gained for the third day on Thursday as upbeat corporate earnings buoyed sentiment.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index gained 0.58 percent to 280.68. DAX30 advanced 58.12 points or 0.80 percent to 7,307.31 and CAC 40 gained 25.26 points or 0.63 percent 4,029.88, while FTSE 100 advanced 12.65 points or 0.21 percent to 6,034.91.

Akzo Nobel NV shares gained 3.97 percent to 52.56 euros after the company said its first quarter net income surged 58 percent to 128 million euros, while analysts’ expected a net income of 104.7 million euros.

Lafarge SA shares gained 2.39 percent to 47.52 euros after the company stock was upgraded to “buy” rating from “neutral” rating at Goldman Sachs.

CRH Plc surged 5.02 percent to 16.50 euros after the company stock was upgraded to “buy” rating from “neutral” rating at Goldman Sachs.

Asian Markets

Asian stocks markets advanced for the second day on Thursday as another batch of upbeat earnings from Wall Street and better-than-expected U.S. existing home sales data boosted sentiment.

Tokyo shares advanced for the second day, led by gains from Apple-linked shares after strong earnings report from Apple Inc. on late Wednesday. Nikkei advanced 0.82 percent or 78.95 points to 9,685.77.

Toshiba Corp. gained 1.92 percent to 424 yen and Elpida Memory Inc. surged 3.6 percent to 1,179 yen.

Among exporters, Sony Corp. gained 2.03 percent to 2,508 yen and Toyota Motor Corp. advanced 0.78 percent to 3,195 yen, while Nissan Motor surged 3.18 percent to 746 yen.

Chinese stock markets ended higher, led by gains from steel maker and coal mining shares. Chinese Shanghai composite rose 0.67 percent or 20.18 points to 3,027.21. Hebei Iron & Steel surged 4.4 percent and Wuhan Iron & Steel gained 2.89 percent, while Angang Steel gained 3.52 percent.

Hong Kong shares ended higher, led by gains from commodity-related shares due to higher oil and gold prices. Hang Seng index advanced 242.21 points or 1.01 percent to 24,138.31. PetroChina Co advanced 1.88 percent to HK$11.88 and China Shenhua Energy gained 3.52 percent to HK$36.85, while Jiangxi Copper surged 5.81 percent to HK$27.30.

South Korean shares surged to a new record high on Thursday as technology and crude oil refiners shares rallied. Seoul composite advanced 28.63 points or 1.32 percent to 2,198.54.

Samsung Electronics gained 1.3 percent and Hynix Semiconductor climbed 7.87 percent, while S-Oil Corp. surged 10 percent and SK Innovation rallied 7.56 percent.

Meanwhile, shares in Hana Financial Group declined 2.82 percent on news that Goldman Sachs sold a 3.1 percent stake in the group.