Traders work in the oil options pit on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange in New York
The companies whose shares are actively trading in Friday's morning session include Bank of Ireland, Alexander & Baldwin, NYSE Euronext, SRA International, Logitech International, Office Depot, Ascent Solar and Omeros. REUTERS

U.S. Markets

US stocks defied odds on Wednesday to close slightly positive. The S&P 500 index climbed 3.77 points, or 0.29 percent, to close at 1,297.54. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 67.39 points, or 0.56 percent, to end at 12,086.02. The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.54 percent.

The market rallied from a deficit at the opening to end positive for the session despite another poor US housing report. The Census Bureau reported at 8:30 a.m. EST that February new home sales declined 16.9 percent from the previous month to the slowest level on record.

Meanwhile, oil futures settled at $105.75 per barrel as turmoil in the Middle East continued to rage on.
However, despite scares of the impact of radiation leakages, Japan’s nuclear situation has not deteriorated and progress has continued. A number of prominent investors and analysts have expressed confidence in Japan’s economy and equities market.

On the corporate front, shares of Jabil Circuit Inc. (NYSE:JBL) soared 10.88 percent to $20.99. The company reported second quarter net income of $55.4 million or $0.25 per share, up from $29.8 million or $0.14 per share in the same period a year-ago.

Adobe Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:ADBE) fell 3.65 percent to $31.68, after its second quarter earnings and revenue forecast fell short of expectations. It expects second quarter profit to be in the range of $0.47 to $0.54 per share on $970 million to $1.02 billion revenue, while analysts expect $0.57 a share on revenue of $1.04 billion.

Moreover, several US mining companies like Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX) (up 4.97 percent) and Southern Copper (NYSE:SCCO) (up 2.41 percent) surged on hopes that Japan’s eventual rebuilding efforts will spur great demand for raw materials.

U.S. Futures

Futures on the S&P 500 are up 0.49 percent, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are up 0.41 percent and Nasdaq100 futures are up 0.76 percent.

The euro advanced 0.26 percent to 1.4125 against the dollar and the yen declined 0.08 percent against the greenback. Crude oil futures advanced 0.78 percent to $106.58 a barrel and gold futures advanced 0.15 percent.

European Markets

European stock markets advanced in early trade on Thursday as positive cues from Wall Street overnight and Asian markets offset concerns over eurozone debt worries.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index advanced 0.25 percent to 273.79. DAX30 gained 47.96 points or 0.70 percent to 6,852.41, CAC 40 advanced 17.09 points or 0.44 percent 3,903.82 and the FTSE 100 gained 36.67 points or 0.63 percent to 5,832.55.

Portugal Prime Minister Jose Socrates announced his resignation on Wednesday after the parliament rejected an austerity budget proposed by his government.

Basic resource-related shares rallied as commodity prices rose. BHP Billiton gained 0.9 percent and Rio Tinto advanced 1.22 percent, while BP Plc. gained 1.9 percent.

Among retailers, Kingfisher climbed 5.41 percent after the company said its annual profit rose 27 percent and hiked its total dividend payout by 29 percent. Tesco Plc gained 2.34 percent and Marks & Spencer Group Plc advanced 3.38 percent.

Inditex SA gained 1.01 percent to 57.83 euros after the company stock was upgraded to “overweight” rating from “equal weight” rating at Morgan Stanley.

Asian Markets

Most Asian stock markets ended higher on bargain hunting Thursday, but Tokyo shares declined amid ongoing nuclear crisis.

Japanese stocks ended lower for the second day, led by declines from Tokyo Electric Power and auto makers. Benchmark Nikkei declined 0.15 percent or 14.46 points to 9,435.01.

Shares of Tokyo Electric Power, Japan's biggest utility and operator of the Fukushima nuclear-power plant, plunged 14.01 percent to 902 yen after the company said it suspended its decision to pay a second-half dividend.

Among the automakers, Honda Motor declined 2.58 percent to 3,010 yen and Toyota Motor declined 2.72 percent to 3,215, while Nissan Motors plunged 4.55 percent to 671 yen as the companies are struggling to resume domestic output following Japan’s devastating earthquake on March 11 due to parts shortages.

Among the exporters, Canon Inc. declined 3.36 percent to 3,590 yen and Sony Corp. declined 1.77 percent to 2,550 yen, while Fujitsu Ltd. fell 1.7 percent.

Hong Kong shares advanced on Thursday, led by gains from raw material producers on the back of higher commodity prices. Benchmark Hang Seng index advanced 89.88 points or 0.39 percent to 22,915.28, while Chinese Shanghai composite edged lower 0.06 percent or 1.80 points to 2,946.67.

Cnooc Ltd. gained 1.84 percent to HK$18.78 after the company said its net profit surged 85 percent in 2010. Jiangxi Copper advanced 0.42 percent to HK$23.95 and Aluminum Corp of China gained 0.82 percent to HK$7.3.

South Korean shares advanced, led by gains from auto maker shares. Seoul composite advanced 24.60 points or 1.22 percent to 2,036.78. Hyundai Motor surged 4.19 percent amid positive earnings expectations for its first quarter. The company is expected to report first quarter operating profit of 803.1 billion won.