FROM MORRISON SECURITIES PTY. LTD:
U.S. STOCK MARKETS
U.S. stocks finished mostly higher after late afternoon comments from the Italian premier boosted confidence that Greece would stay in the euro zone.
Greece's leftist anti-bailout party maintained its four-point lead over the conservative party ahead of the country's June elections, stocks jumped as Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti speculated that Greece would remain in the euro zone.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 34 points, or 0.3%, at 12530, after bouncing back from a 0.6% slide. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index climbed 1.8 points, or 0.1%, to 1321 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 11 points, or 0.4%, to 2839.
After choppy afternoon trading around word that the latest polls show Greece's leftist anti-bailout party maintained its four-point lead over the conservative party ahead of the country's June elections, stocks jumped as Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti speculated that Greece would remain in the euro zone.
Earlier in the day, initial claims for jobless benefits declined 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000 in the latest week, marking the first time in three weeks that claims fell. But the prior week's figure was revised slightly higher. Orders for durable goods unexpectedly increased 0.2% in April, recovering from a steep drop in March and better than the 0.3% decline that economists had expected.
Dow component Hewlett-Packard climbed 2.9% after the computer maker reported earnings and revenue that exceeded analyst expectations, according to FactSet Research, and announced a restructuring plan that includes reducing its workforce by 8%, or approximately 27,000 employees.
Meanwhile, Facebook finished up 3.2%, marking the company's first back-to-back gain. NetApp slid 12.3% after the data-storage company provided an earnings and revenue outlook that were below projections. Pandora Media surged 12.3% after the Internet-radio company reported a narrower-than-expected loss and revenue that topped forecasts.
EUROPEAN STOCK MARKETS
Bargain-hunters stepped in to pick up beaten-down bank and energy stocks in Europe Thursday, helping investors shake off downbeat economic data and a disappointing European Union leaders' meeting.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index closed 1% higher at 241.91. Banks and oil stocks, battered in Wednesday's trade, rebounded. HSBC Holdings PLC rose 1.4%, while shares of BP PLC added nearly 3.3% and Total SA gained 1.5% as oil prices rose back above $90 a barrel.
No new strategy came out of the informal meeting of EU leaders in Brussels late Wednesday, though the leaders stressed that Greece should remain in the euro zone.
President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, however, cushioned the disappointment as he mentioned talks of more integrated banking supervision and a cross-border deposit insurance program.
Meanwhile, private-sector output across the 17-nation euro zone contracted in May by the fastest pace since mid-2009, according to Markit.
Separate surveys showed German manufacturing output fell in May at the sharpest pace for nearly three years, while private-sector output in France tumbled at the sharpest rate in more than three years.
The German DAX 30 index trailed other major European bourses, rising 0.5% to 6,315.89. In addition to the purchasing-managers survey, the Munich-based Ifo Institute said the country's May business-climate index unexpectedly tumbled. Utility E.ON AG rose 2.1%, while RWE gained 2.2%. Shares of Deutsche Bank AG rose 0.8%.
The FTSE 100 index jumped 1.6% to 5,350.05, benefiting from gains for heavyweight bank and resource stocks. Royal Dutch Shell PLC rose 1.8% and BG Group PLC gained 3.2%, while Standard Chartered PLC was up 1.9% and Barclays PLC jumped 2.7%.
Outside the main index, shares of Cable & Wireless Communications PLC surged 17.6% after full-year earnings exceeded analyst expectations.
Gains for Total helped push the French CAC 40 index up 1.2% to 3,038.25. Banks Societe Generale SA added 2.3%, Credit Agricole SA advanced 1.5% and BNP Paribas SA rose 1.6%. Utility GDF Suez SA rose 2.2% after analysts at Credit Suisse upgraded the shares to neutral from underperform. The Athens General Index tumbled 4.5% to 502.52, with National Bank of Greece SA off 4%.
ASIA-PACIFIC STOCK MARKETS
Asian markets ended mixed Thursday, as data pointing to a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing added to disappointment over an inconclusive European Union summit.
Japan's Nikkei dipped below 8500 during the session to reach a four-month low, before finishing flat at 8563.38. Among other indexes, Korea's Kospi finished at 1814.47, a 0.3% rise, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended 0.6% lower at 18,666.40.
The China Shanghai SE Composite fell 0.5% to 2350.97. Chinese factory data for May pointed toward a deteriorating economic environment in Asia's largest economy.
HSBC's preliminary China purchasing managers index came out at 48.7, compared with a final reading of 49.3 in April. The latest figure was the seventh straight month that the index indicated a contraction.
Beverage makers led losses in China, with Wuliangye Yibi down 4.7%, spirits producer Lu Zhou Lao Jiao 6.6% lower and Kweichow Moutai down 4.4%.
Some property stocks benefited from speculation the slowing economy may force Beijing to loosen policy, benefiting the real estate market.
Hong Kong-listed developer China Resources Land rose 2%. In Japan, Wednesday's steep selloff allowed many players to unwind their short positions, while much of the pessimism over China had already been factored into prices, noted one equity trader at a foreign brokerage.
This allowed for subsequent buying pressure to lift the broader market. China-sensitive machinery maker Fanuc gained 0.8%, while Hitachi Construction Machinery closed up 1.1%.
Real estate developers benefited from bargain-buying. Mitsui Fudosan added 1.8%, while Sumitomo Realty & Development gained 2.1%. Shares with heavy exposure to the euro zone remained largely weaker, however, with Canon dropping 2.2% and TDK losing 2.0%.
Base metals closed higher on the London Metal Exchange Thursday, helped into positive territory by a firmer euro and opportunistic buying at lower prices.
At the close, LME three-month copper was 1.0% higher on the day at $7,605 a metric ton, recouping some of the previous session's 2.7% slide.
After some initial weakness, the euro clawed back ground against the dollar Thursday, providing some support for the dollar-denominated base metals, which are less expensive for other currency holders when the greenback softens.
U.S. crude-oil futures inched higher to move back above the psychologically significant $90-a-barrel barrier Thursday as some traders said the market is at a crossroads following the steep selloff so far this month.
The July contract for light, sweet crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled 0.9%, or 76 cents, higher at $90.66 a barrel after closing at $89.90 Wednesday, when it fell below $90 for the first time in seven months.
July ICE Brent futures gained 99 cents, or 0.9% to $106.55. Gold futures gained for the first time this week, as a brief pause in the dollar's upward march spurred some investors who had bet on lower prices for the precious metal to close out those bets.
The most actively traded gold contract, for June delivery, rose $9.10, or 0.6%, to settle at $1,557.50 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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