U.S. STOCK MARKETS
Technology shares rallied on better-than-expected earnings reports from International Business Machines and others, overshadowing a disappointing round of economic data to push U.S. stocks higher.
Gold futures popped back above $1,600 an ounce, cutting some of this week's losses as the better-than-expected labor market reading dented the dollar and drew investors to commodities.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 34.66 points, or 0.27%, to 12943.36, its third-straight daily advance. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index added 3.73 points, or 0.27%, to 1376.51.
The technology and materials sectors saw the biggest advances among the index's 10 groups. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 23.30 points, or 0.79%, to 2965.90. IBM's shares gained 3.8%, the sharpest increase since January, after raising its profit forecast for the year.
The rally contributed more than 55 points to the price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average's move.
Qualcomm rose 4.3% after the semiconductor maker said it was on track to resolve the supply issues that prompted the company to lower revenue forecasts for the current quarter.
EBay shot up 8.6% to a more than six-year high after the online auctioneer's second-quarter earnings and revenue exceeded analysts' forecasts.
Textron climbed 12% after results from the maker of Bell helicopters and Cessna aircraft topped analysts' predictions. Morgan Stanley dropped 5.3% after profit missed forecasts amid weakness in the company's institutional securities business.
Downbeat economic data kept a lid on the market's gains. The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits rose more than economists expected, the Labor Department reported.
Sales of previously occupied homes unexpectedly fell in June, to the lowest level in eight months, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Factory activity in the Mid-Atlantic region contracted, albeit at a slower pace, for a third straight month in July, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's index of manufacturing activity.
The Conference Board's leading economic index fell further than forecast. In other corporate news, Walgreen jumped 12%, leading the S&P 500 higher, after ending a seven-month dispute with pharmacy-benefits manager Express Scripts that had prevented millions of patients from getting prescriptions filled at the drugstore chain.
PPG Industries advanced 7.5% after saying it will split off its chemicals business and combine the new company with smaller rival Georgia Gulf in a cash-and-stock deal. Georgia Gulf's stock jumped 13%.
Dow component American Express slipped 3.5%. The charge-card company reported second-quarter earnings that topped expectations but revenue that fell a bit shy.
In earnings reported after the market closed, Microsoft Corp. swung to a fiscal fourth-quarter loss, its first quarterly loss in at least 20 years, as it booked a hefty write-down in its online services division and deferred revenue related to its Windows 8 upgrade promotion.
Microsoft shares rose 2.4% after hours. Google Inc. said its second-quarter profit jumped 11% thanks to growing interest in its Internet search business, even as the prices paid by search advertisers continued to drop. Shares rose 3.3% to $612.45 after hours.
EUROPEAN STOCK MARKETS
European stocks rallied Thursday, buoyed by well-received earnings reports from companies such as Akzo Nobel NV and Nokia Corp.
Spain was also in the spotlight, as borrowing costs rose and demand fell at an auction of government debt. The Stoxx Europe 600 index jumped 1.1% to 261.86, closing at its highest level since April 3. Nokia surged 12%, as second-quarter sales dropped 19%.
Swedish engineering firm Sandvik AB jumped 6.1% after reporting forecast-beating earnings for the second quarter, although it cautioned that economic uncertainty had increased, especially in Europe.
Akzo Nobel climbed 6.3%, as revenue for the second quarter rose 8%, but net profit slumped 25% due to restructuring charges. Spain's 10-year bond yields inched dangerously close to the 7% level as the government sold 2.98 billion euros ($3.66 billion) of various bonds, but at higher borrowing costs and with lower bid-to-cover ratios.
In the secondary market, the yield on Spain's 10-year government bond rose 0.08 percentage point to 6.98%, according to electronic trading platform Tradeweb.
Spain's IBEX 35 index climbed 0.6% to 6,632.60. Late in the day, the German Bundestag voted on Berlin's contribution to an up to EUR100 billion rescue package for Spain's ailing banks, backing the measures with a 473-97 vote, according to media reports.
In Germany, the DAX 30 index performed the best among major country-specific bourses, up 1.1% at 6,758.39, buoyed by car makers--Daimler AG advanced 1.5% and BMW AG rose 1.4%--and chemicals firm BASF SE, up 2%.
In France, Alstom SA added 3.1%, after the industrial conglomerate said booked orders rose 20% in fiscal first quarter on the year.
The CAC 40 index closed 0.9% higher at 3,263.64. Among U.K. stocks, home improvement retailer Kingfisher PLC fell 1.3% as it reported a drop in same-store sales, blaming the weather for poor demand for outdoor products.
The FTSE 100 index rose 0.5% to 5,714.19. Rio Tinto PLC added 1.7% and Standard Chartered PLC gained 2.3%.
ASIA-PACIFIC STOCK MARKETS
Strong corporate earnings as well as better-than expected housing data pushed stocks higher Thursday, with the Australian market enjoying its largest percentage increase in six months.
Asian stocks once again took their cue from the U.S., where the earnings season continued overnight with strong profits coming out of major technology companies. That had a knock-on effect in Japan, where electronic technology led gains in Japan's Nikkei Average, which was up 0.8% at 8795.55.
Semiconductor maker Advantest leapt 6.5%, while Dainippon Screen Manufacturing gained 6.6%.
South Korea's Kospi gained 1.6% to 1822.96, with rises in technology, shipbuilding, and chemical stocks. The market was also helped out by a decent performance from its single largest constituent--Samsung Electronics, which was up 3.6%.
In China, the Hang Seng Index was 1.7% higher at 19559.05 and the Shanghai Composite gained 0.7% to 2184.84.
In company news, All Nippon Airways dropped 2.1% in Japan after it set the price for its massive new public share offer, which the airline hopes will raise 175.1 billion yen, less than the Y200 billion it expected to raise when it announced the deal earlier in the month.
Shares in Suzuki Motor reached a new 2012 low after dropping 3.8% in Tokyo, as an affiliate in India, Maruti Suzuki India, suffered from a production halt at its north India plant due to labor unrest.
Luggage brand Samsonite International gained 8.2% in Hong Kong after it announced a $110 million acquisition of U.S. casual bag company High Sierra.
The Chinese market got a boost from a report in the state-run Shanghai Securities News Thursday that cited unnamed sources as saying China's four biggest banks issued about 50 billion yuan ($7.9 billion) of new loans in the first half of July.
Jiangxi Wannianqing Cement gained 2.8%, Huaxin Cement added 1.9%, and Shanghai Construction Group rose 6%.
Base metals closed mostly higher on the London Metal Exchange Thursday, buoyed by hopes for further economic stimulus by central banks.
At the PM kerb close, LME three-month copper was 1.2% higher at $7,725 a metric ton, leading the complex. Aluminum closed at $1,943/ton, up 1.9% on the day.
Crude oil surged 3.1% Thursday on renewed fears about Middle East tensions following the latest flare-up between Israel and Iran.
Light, sweet crude for August delivery settled at $92.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up $2.79. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange settled at $107.80 a barrel, up $2.64.
Prices rose for the seventh straight session after Israel accused Iran of orchestrating a bombing attack at a resort in Bulgaria, frequented by Israelis, that killed at least six people and injured 30 others. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would "respond with force."
Gold settled slightly higher, with investors divided on the likelihood of further financial stimulus for the U.S. economy. The most actively traded futures contract, for August delivery, gained 0.6%, or $9.60, to settle at $1,580.40 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures briefly spiked to $1,591.50 a troy ounce in the morning after the release of worse-than-expected U.S. unemployment data. From MORRISON SECURITIES PTY. LTD.
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