U.S. Markets

U.S. stocks advanced on Thursday as robust earnings from Apple, Morgan Stanley and General Electric lifted the market, but weaker-than- expected reports on jobless claims and Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index kept gains in check.

The S&P 500 Index was up 7.02 points, or 0.53 percent, at 1,337.38. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 52.45 points, or 0.42 percent, at 12,505.99. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.63 percent.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares gained 2.42 percent to $350.70 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.

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) shares advanced 1.69 percent to $26.48 after reporting first quarter net income of $0.46 per share on an adjusted basis against analysts’ estimation of $0.40 per share.

Shares of General Electric Co. (NYSE:GE) declined 2.21 percent to $19.95 despite reporting an 80 percent rise in its first quarter profit. Profit was $3.36 billion or $0.31 a share, up from $1.87 billion or $0.17 a share last year. The company also raised its quarterly dividend by $0.01.

Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) stock gained 3.02 percent to $56.94 as its second quarter earnings exceeded Street view. Profit was $999 million or 59 cents a share, up from $774 million or 46 cents a share last year. Adjusted earnings were $1.45 billion or 86 cents a share for the latest quarter. Revenue grew 46 percent to $3.87 billion. Analysts had expected profit of 80 cents a share on revenue of $3.62 billion.

Economic data on Thursday was mixed. Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index, which determines the economic health of the manufacturing sector in Philadelphia district, fell to 18.50 in April from 43.40 in March, while economists expected a reading of 36.80.

The Department of Labor reported that initial jobless claims declined by 13,000 to 403,000 for the week ended Apr.16 from the previous week's revised figure of 416,000, while economists expected 390,000. The 4-week moving average of initial claims increased 2,250 to 399,000 from the previous week's revised average of 396,750.

European Stocks

European stock markets ended higher on Thursday as a flood of strong corporate earnings buoyed sentiment.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index gained 0.51 percent to 280.47. DAX30 advanced 46.30 points or 0.64 percent to 7,295.49 and CAC 40 gained 17.26 points or 0.43 percent 4,021.88, while FTSE 100 declined 3.96 points or 0.07 percent to 6,018.30.

Akzo Nobel NV shares gained 3.93 percent to 52.54 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 1.57 percent to 47.14 euros after the company stock was upgraded to “buy” rating from “neutral” rating at Goldman Sachs.

CRH Plc surged 4.31 percent to 16.33 euros after the company stock was upgraded to “buy” rating from “neutral” rating at Goldman Sachs.

KPN NV plunged 7.46 percent to 10.85 euros after the company lowered its outlook for 2011 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to more than 5.3 billion euros from 5.5 billion euros.

Vodafone Group Plc. plunged 4.3 percent after Dutch Telecom Company KPN NV said it intends to slash up to 5000 jobs for the 2011 - 2015 periods.

Asian Markets

Asian stock markets ended slightly lower in holiday-hit trading on Friday. Many markets including Australia, Hong Kong Jakarta, Singapore, Manila and India were closed for public holidays.

Tokyo shares ended lower as exporters declined on back of stronger yen. Benchmark Nikkei declined 0.04 percent or 3.56 points to 9,682.21.

Among exporters, Sony Corp. declined 1.23 percent to 2,477 yen and Fanuc Corp. fell 0.22 percent to 13,220 yen, while Canon inc. declined 1.4 percent to 3,510 yen after a media report showed that Canon’s operating profit for the January-March quarter declined by about 8 percent on the year to about 80 billion yen.

Chip and automaker shares gained after Renesas Electronics Corp. said it will restart production at a quake-halted plant. Honda Motor gained 2.27 percent and Nissan Motor surged 3.61 percent, while Toyota Motor Corp. advanced 3.13 percent.

Chinese shares ended lower, led by declines from financials and property developers on monetary tightening concerns. Chinese Shanghai composite fell 0.52 percent or 15.67 points to 3,011.00. Citic Securities Co Ltd. declined 1.79 percent and Cinda Real Estate Co Ltd. fell 2.26 percent.

South Korean shares ended flat as tech shares declined after recent rally. Seoul composite declined 0.72 points or 0.03 percent to 2,197.82. Samsung Electronics declined 2.58 percent and Hynix Semiconductor fell 1.08 percent, while POSCO gained 0.52 percent ahead of its quarterly results.