From North America: Toronto's main market was higher Thursday afternoon as commodity prices climbed on optimism that Greece would complete a vital bond swap deal in order to avoid a debt default.
As at 1.05 pm EDT, the S&P/TSX Composite was up 93.73 points, or 0.76% at 12,443.89, while the junior S&P/TSX Venture index rose 8.24 points, or 0.51%, at 1,629.91.
On the commodities front, crude futures rose 0.73%, or 77 cents, to $106.93 a barrel. In precious metals trading, gold rose 0.82% to $1,697.70 an ounce while silver futures were 0.51% higher at $33.75 an ounce.
Base metal copper was trading up 0.57% at $3.78 a pound.
Investors are less panicked about the outcome of a Greek debt swap program, whose deadline is 3 pm EDT Thursday.
Initial press reports say that investors holding around 60% of Greek government bonds eligible for the swap have indicated they will take part. Official results of the swap will be released Friday morning.
Amongst the gainers in Toronto was Colossus Minerals (TSE:CSI), which was up 6.55% to $6.34 and Petrobank Energy (TSE:PBG), which gained 5.92% at $16.28.
All three of Toronto's main sectors were flying high with materials up 0.91%, energy rose 1.02% and financials were 0.98% higher.
In corporate news, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (TSE:CM) was down 0.1% even though the bank said first-quarter profits rose 9 percent, beating estimates.
CIBC is the last of Canada's big banks to report results in a quarter that has generally shown household lending to be holding strong, with higher-than-expected capital markets revenue.
Miner Xstrata expanded its coking coal operations in Canada's British Columbia on Thursday with the $500 million purchase of assets from Talisman Energy (TSE:TLM).
Shares in Viterra (TSE:VT) were off by 1.7% at $10.62 after it reported a lower quarterly profit, hurt by weaker earnings in grain handling and processing.
TransGlobe Energy (TSE:TGL) said its quarterly profit rose more than three times, helped by higher production and oil prices, and the company expects 2012 output to rise by up to 65 percent.
Oil explorer Canadian Natural Resources (TSE:CNQ) swung to a fourth-quarter profit and raised its dividend.
On the economic front, Statistics Canada's New Housing Price Index rose 0.1% in January, following a similar increase in December, mostly due to growth in Calgary and Vancouver.
Meantime, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported that housing starts came in at 201,100 units in February, up from 198,100 units in January.
US markets were also lifted by Greek debt optimism, with the Dow up 0.5%, the S&P 500 gaining 0.9% and the NASDAQ rising 1%.
In corporate news, home furnishings retailer Williams-Sonoma (NYSE:WMS) reported a fourth quarter profit of $122.6 million, or $1.17 a share, up from $113.4 million, or $1.05 a share, a year earlier.
Revenue rose 6.1% from the prior year to $1.27 billion.
Analysts polled by FactSet Research were looking for earnings, on average, of $1.13 a share on sales of $1.25 billion.
Beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD) posted a near doubling in its fourth-quarter profits after strong global growth for its Budweiser and Stella Artois brands.
The Leuven, Belgium-based company said net profit was $1.85 billion compared with $968 million a year earlier. Revenue meanwhile rose 5.7 percent to $9.87 billion.
Meat provider Smithfield Foods (NYSE:SFD) posted better-than-expected revenue led by higher selling prices and strong demand for pork, but profits fell due to early debt extinguishment costs.
For the third quarter ended January 29, the company said total revenue rose 9.2% to $3.48 billion up from $3.18 billion. The company said that sales growth was helped by higher selling prices and strong demand for pork.
Quarterly net income fell totalling $79 million, or 49 cents a share, compared with a year-ago profit of $202.6 million, or $1.21 a share. Excluding one-time items, adjusted earnings fell 69 cents from 84 cents.
Analysts polled by Bloomberg were projecting earnings of 64 cents a share and revenue of $3.5 billion.
On the economic front, the number of Americans filing for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week, but not enough to change perceptions that the labor market was strengthening.
Initial claims for state unemployment aid increased 8,000 to 362,000, the Labor Department said. Even with the increase, new claims remained near the four-year low reached last month.
Economists polled by MarketWatch forecast the number of first-time claims for jobless benefits to rise to 355,000 from the prior-week number of 351,000.
In Europe, with the European Central Bank and Bank of England keeping rates on hold, stocks closed sharply higher with the FTSE 100 increasing 1.2%, the DAX and the CAC 40 jumping 2.5%.