U.S. equity markets jumped higher overnight as economic data fed into investor hopes of further moves next week by the Federal Reserve to bolster the economy.
By the close the Dow Jones had added 156 points to 12,652, while the NASDAQ added 18 points to 2836.
Calls for the Federal Reserve to take more simulative steps have grown for several months. Hopes are that the central bank will either launch a third round of bond purchases, known as quantitative easing or QE3, or extend its current policy of Operation Twist, which is set to expire at the end of June.
The U.S. central bank holds a two-day monetary policy meeting next week, with chairman Ben Bernanke scheduled to hold a news conference at the conclusion of the meeting Wednesday afternoon.
In corporate news, Nokia Corp. (NYSE:NOK) said Thursday it would lay off a further 10,000 jobs globally by the end of 2013 in a further drive to save costs and streamline operations.
Last year, Nokia announced more than 10,000 layoffs, aimed at cutting operating expenses by 1 billion euros or $1.31 billion by 2013.
BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM)(TSE:RIM) shares fell more than 4.3% Thursday after the company filed a document Thursday that said Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, will receive a payout of around $12-million after having stepped down as co-chief executive officers in January.
Smithfield Foods (NYSE:SFD), the largest U.S. pork producer by volume, said Thursday that fiscal fourth-quarter earnings fell 19% as sales grew slower than expected and margins shrank.
Shares of grocery chain Kroger (NYSE:KR) rose Thursday, after it reported a better than expected increase in profit, along with a $1 billion share buyback program.
Shares of Jive Software also popped more than 9.6% after reports that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is in talks to buy a rival business social networking firm, Yammer.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) maintained its top position among US Internet search services in May, taking 66.7 per cent of the market share, up 0.2 percentage points from a month earlier, while Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) lost market share for the ninth consecutive month.
On the economic front, first-time applications for jobless benefits rose by 6,000 to 386,000 last week and consumer prices in May fell 0.3%, the sharpest drop in roughly three years.
Also Thursday, the U.S. Treasury sold $13 billion in 30-year bonds at a record-low yield of 2.72%.
Oil prices edged higher as members of the OPEC nations gathered in Vienna to discuss oil production levels.
In futures trading, crude for July delivery rose 83 cents to $83.45. Gold futures for August delivery edged up 90 cents to $1,620.30 an ounce.
European stocks closed mixed with the FTSE 100 shedding 0.2%, the DAX losing 0.2% and the CAC 40 ending barely in positive territory.
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