FOX Business: The Power to Prosper

Upbeat corporate news and encouraging economic data propelled stocks for a second straight day. 

Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 71.6 points, or 0.58%, to 12,351, the S&P 500 climbed 8.8 points, or 0.67%, to 1,328 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 19.9 points, or 0.72%, to 2,777. The FOX 50 was up 6.7 points to 933.  

Stocks have bounced back markedly from the slump triggered by fears over the situation in Japan, the Middle East and North Africa.  Indeed, the Dow has soared 737 points, or 6.4%, since bottoming on March 16. 

Lower-than-usual volume on the New York Stock Exchange has caused some analysts to question the conviction of the rally.  However, wide participation among large institutions "counterbalance" some of those concerns, according to Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Capital Group. 

The economic picture has been a major focus this week, with a slew of data being released, capped with Friday's employment situation report. 

Planned layoffs dropped 18% to 41,528 in March, according to a report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. The government laid off 19,099 workers -- the most layoffs of any sector. 

Private sector employment jumped by 201,000 in March, mostly inline with economists' expectation of an increase of 203,000, according to a report by payroll firm ADP

"This is a strong report that indicates continued momentum in the pace of labor market recovery," wrote Nicholas Tenev, an economist at Barclays Capital, in a research note. 

Mergers and acquisitions activity continues picking up speed. Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX), Canada's largest drug-maker, made a $5.7 billion hostile bid for Cephalon (CEPH), boosting shares of both companies. General Electric (GE) announced plans to acquire Converteam for $3.2 billion on Tuesday. 

The employment situation report -- slated for release Friday morning -- is widely considered to be an important gauge of the condition of U.S. labor market.  The jobs market has shown modest recovery, with the unemployment rate edging lower to 8.9% in February -- far off the January 2010 peak of 10.6%. 

Oil initially traded sharply lower on bearish inventory news and a strengthening U.S. dollar, but but shed some of its losses in late trading.  

Light, sweet crude ended the session lower by 52 cents, or 0.5%, to $104.27.  Gas prices at the consumer level continue climbing.  A gallon of regular gas cost $3.60 on average nationwide, up from $3.37 last month and $2.80 last year. 

Crude stocks were up 2.95 million barrels in the prior week -- far more than the 1.8 million barrel build analysts forecast -- according to the Energy Department

The unrest in Libya and the Middle East has also driven the energy markets in recent weeks.  A coalition of forces including NATO has continued striking Muammar al-Qaddafi's military, but Qaddafi has countered.  Despite the turmoil there, analysts are optimistic that Libya, an OPEC member, will be able to get oil production back online within 12-18 months. 

The situation in Syria remained tense after security forces fired at protesters in Latakia, according to The Associated Press, citing witnesses.  Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose family has been in power for 40 years, has made largely symbolic concessions, and blamed foreign "conspirators," not internal strife, for igniting the protests. 

Currencies have gyrated amid headlines about Portugal's financial and political volatility.  The European-Union-member's cost of borrowing has skyrocketed, increasing the chances the country will need a bailout from the EU, ratings agencies say.  The euro gained 0.06% against the U.S. dollar. 

Gold climbed $7.40, or 0.52%, to $1,425 a troy ounce. 

Corporate News

AMR (AMR), the parent company of American Airlines, will temporarily suspend two daily flights to Tokyo, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing an internal memo. 

Nasdaq OMX Group’s (NDAQ) cyber security breach last year is being investigated by the National Security Agency amid signs the attack may have been more severe than previously disclosed, Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek reported.

Google (GOOG) reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over privacy concerns related to its Buzz social media product.  The search giant agreed to conducting independent privacy reviews for the next 20 years. 

News Corporation (NWS) promoted James Murdoch to the role chairman and chief executive officer of its international division. 

Dell (DELL) was given a "neutral" rating by Sterne Agee, with a price target of $15.00 a share, only slightly above its current trading price. 

Family Dollar Stores (FDO) revealed second-fiscal quarter profits of 98 cents a share, narrowly besting analysts' calls for 97 cents. 

Jos A Bank (JOSB) earned $1.47 a share in its fiscal-fourth quarter, well higher than the $1.43 Wall Street had forecast. 

Foreign Markets

Global shares rallied on optimism economic recovery is gaining traction across the world. 

The English FTSE 100 was up 0.27% to 5,948, the French CAC 40 jumped 0.92% to 4,024 and the German DAX traded higher by 1.8% to 7,057. 

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 soared 2.6% to 9,709 and the Chinese Hang Seng gained 1.7% to 23,451. 

 

News Corporation is the parent company of the FOX Business Network and FOXBusiness.com.

Follow Adam Samson on Twitter @adamsamson.