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 bargain hunting.

The applications for jobless benefits in the U.S. fell last week, indicating an improvement in the labor market conditions. 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.

On the corporate front, FedEx Corp. (NYSE:FDX) shares gained 3.06 percent as its fourth quarter earnings guidance beat 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 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.

U.S. Futures

Futures on the S&P 500 are up 0.54 percent, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are up 0.61 percent and Nasdaq100 futures are up 0.61 percent.

The euro advanced 0.23 percent to 1.4054 against the dollar and the yen plunged 3.07 percent against the greenback. Crude oil futures advanced 1.27 percent to $102.71 a barrel and gold futures advanced 0.57 percent.

European Markets

European stock markets advanced on Friday, tracking positive cues from Asian stocks after the Group of Seven (G-7) Finance ministers had agreed to intervene in the markets to stabilise the Japanese yen.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index advanced 0.32 percent to 267.93. DAX30 gained 34.24 points or 0.51 percent to 6,691.12, CAC 40 advanced 26.53 points or 0.70 percent 3,812.74 and the FTSE 100 gained 26.47 points or 0.46 percent to 5,722.58.

Siemens AG advanced 2.56 percent to 91.90 euros after the company stock was upgraded to”buy” rating from “hold” rating at Deutsche Bank.

PubliGroupe SA surged 9.3 percent as the company swung to profit in fiscal 2010. The company reported full year net income of 42.6 million Swiss francs for 2010 compared to loss in 2009.

Unliever Plc. gained 1.1 percent after the company stock was upgraded to “buy” rating from “hold” rating at ING.

Among mining stocks, BHP Billiton Plc. gained 1.29 percent and Xstrata Plc advanced 0.58 percent.

Chemicals producer BASF SE gained 2.26 percent to 56.39 euros. The company stock was upgraded to “overweight” rating from “neutral” rating at J.P. Morgan.

Asian Markets

Asian stock markets ended higher on Friday, with Japanese shares leading the gains after G-7 nations promised that they will jointly intervene in currency markets to help Japan’s recovery from the disastrous earthquake and tsunami.

Tokyo shares surged as the yen retreated from historic highs after finance minister Yoshihiko Noda said that G-7 countries would start selling yen in each country when their trading session opens. Benchmark Nikkei gained 2.72 percent or 244.08 points to 9,206.75.

The USD/JPY recorded a high of 81.87 from 79.17 in Asian trading on Friday, before consolidating at 81.79.

Japan’s largest bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group gained 3.03 percent to 374 yen and electronics maker Kyocera Corp. surged 5.22 percent to 7,850 yen, while Daikin Industries surged 8.7 percent.

Among the exporters, Honda Motor gained 0.8 percent to 3,080 yen and Canon Inc. gained 1.58 percent to 3,525 yen, while Sony Corp. advanced 0.15 percent to 2,519 yen.

Shares of Tokyo Electric Power, Japan's biggest utility and operator of the Fukushima nuclear-power plant, gained for the first time this week. Its shares surged 17.94 percent to 940 yen.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 79.34 points or 0.36 percent to 22,363.77 and Chinese Shanghai composite gained 0.42 percent or 12.10 points to 2,909.40.

China Overseas Land & Investment shares surged 6.49 percent to HK$14.10 as its fiscal 2010 earnings beat estimates. Its full year profit surged 66 percent to HK$12.4 billion against analysts’ estimation of HK$9.31 billion.

South Korean shares ended higher, led by gains from brokerages and construction companies’ shares. Seoul composite advanced 22.10 points or 1.13 percent to 1,981.13. Daewoo Engineering & Construction gained 4.65 percent and Hyundai Engineering & Construction advanced 4.31 percent.