U.S. Markets

U.S. Stocks climbed, supported by some solid earnings reports and a number or M&A deal-making, as the Dow and S&P 500 reached 31-month highs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 61.53 points, or 0.50 percent, to finish at 12,288.17, its highest close since June 2008. The S&P 500 index gained 8.31 points, or 0.63 percent, to 1,336.32 – also its highest level since June 2008. The Nasdaq composite added 21.21 points, or 0.76 percent, to 2825.56 – the tech-heavy index closed at its highest level since November 2007.

Construction of new homes and apartments climbed 14.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 596,000 units in January, from a revised 520,000 in December and against estimation of 550,000 units. However, new building permits, a measure of future construction, fell sharply by 10.4 percent to 562,000 in January against the revised figure of 627,000 in December.

Minutes from the FOMC meeting in late January indicated that central bank officials slightly upgraded their economic outlook for the U.S. for 2011, but warned unemployment would remain high.

On the corporate front, shares of Dell Inc. (NASDAQ:DELL) surged 11.86 percent as its fourth quarter earnings topped the Street view. Adjusted profit was $1.02 billion or 53 cents a share, higher than $544 million or 28 cents a share last year. Revenue rose to $15.69 billion from $14.90 billion. Analysts had expected profit of 37 cents a share on revenue of $15.72 billion.

Family Dollar Stores, Inc. (NYSE:FDO) shares climbed 21.13 percent after the company confirmed that it has received an unsolicited conditional proposal from billionaire investor Nelson Peltz's Trian Group to acquire FDO at a price in the range of $55 to $60 per share in cash.

The euro advanced 0.05 percent to 1.3576 against the dollar and the yen gained 0.10 percent against the greenback. Crude oil futures advanced 0.20 percent to $85.16/barrel and gold futures rose 0.06 percent.

European Markets

European stock markets ended higher for the fourth day on Wednesday, led by gains from financial sector companies after Societe Generale reported better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings.

The Stoxx 600 advanced 0.44 percent to 290.72. DAX30 up by 14.26 points or 0.19 percent to 7,414.30, CAC 40 advanced 40.92 points or 1 percent 4,51.26 and the FTSE 100 advanced 48.19 points or 0.80 percent 6,085.27.

Societe Generale led the gains in financial sector, following better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings. Its fourth quarter net income surged 74 percent to 874 million euros, topping analysts’ estimates of 868 million euros. The company shares advanced 4.86 percent.

French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis climbed 3.51 percent after it agreed to acquire U.S. biotechnology company Genzyme (Nasdaq: GENZ) for $74.00 per share in cash or about $20.1 billion, plus extra payments linked to experimental multiple sclerosis drug Lemtrada.

Deutsche Bank AG advanced 3.5 percent to 48.54 euros and Siemens AG gained 2.17 percent to 96.90 euros, while HSBC Holdings PLC gained 2.84 percent and Vodafone Group PLC advanced 1.78 percent.

Asian Markets

Asian stock markets ended mixed on Wednesday with Japanese Nikkei advanced to log a 10-month closing high, led by gains from exporter shares on back of weaker yen.

Tokyo shares ended higher as sentiment was buoyed after Nomura Holdings Inc. raised its growth forecasts for Japan and exporters gained as yen falls against dollar. The benchmark Nikkei index advanced 0.57 percent or 61.62 points to 10,808.29.

The Bank of Japan Tuesday raised its overall economic assessment for the first time in nine months as faster overseas growth bolsters exports and production.

The dollar advanced to a nearly two-month high of 83.91 yen due to brighter U.S. economic outlook for 2011. Exporters including Sony Corp. and Sharp gained more than 2.5 percent, while Toshiba Corp. Surged 3.19 percent and Nintendo Co. climbed 4.2 percent.

Chinese Shanghai composite gained 0.86 percent or 24.95 points to 2,924.19 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 1.12 percent or 257.19 points to 23,156.97.

Meanwhile, South Korean shares ended lower after volatile trade as declines from automakers and crude refiners weighed. Benchmark Seoul composite fell 21.41 points or 1.06 percent to 1,989.11. Hyundai Motor declined 2.7 percent and Kia Motor fell 2.27 percent, while SK Innovation plunged 4.37 percent.