Thursday, March 24, 2011

US Stock Futures Advance After Upbeat Data, Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) Eyed

Opening Bell

US stock-index futures advanced on Thursday as better-than-expected economic data lifted investor sentiment.  

At 8:39 am ET, the S&P 500 futures climbed 7.40 points to 1288.90. The Dow Jones Industrial average futures rallied  64 points to 12,085. The Nasdaq Composite futures advanced 21.25 points to 2,286.25.

A release by Commerce Department on Thursday showed that order for durable goods fell 0.9% in February. Economists had expected the durable orders to rise 1.5% last month.

A release by Department of Labor on Thursday showed number of Americans filing first- time claims for unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to 382,000 in the week ending March 19. Economists expected jobless claims to drop to 380,000. The four-week average of seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims, a less volatile gauge, decreased 1,500 to 385,250. Continuing claims for the week ending March 12 dropped 2,000 to 3.72 million.

Shares of Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) rallied more than 5% on Thursday, a day fter the memory chipmaker reported that its fiscal second-quarter net income dropped to $72 million, or 7 cents a share, compared to $365 million, or 39 cents a share in the year-ago period. Revenue increased to $2.3 billion from $2 billion. Analysts, on average, had expected Micron to report earnings of 3 cents a share, and $2.1 billion in revenue.

After Wednesday's closing bell, Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) announced that its fourth-quarter net income rose to $33.5 million, or 17 cents a share, from $23.4 million, or 12 cents a share in the year-ago period. On an adjusted basis, the company earned 26 cents a share in the latest quarter. Revenue climbed 25% to $244.8 million. 

European stocks advanced in afternoon trade. At 12:20 pm, the UK FTSE rose 61.59 points or 1.06% to 5,587.47. The German DAX and French CAC increased 1.82% and 1.34% respectively.

Asian stocks finished little changed. The Nikkei 225 slipped 14.46 points or 0.83% to 9,435.01. The Hang Seng index of Hong Kong added 89.88 points or 0.39% to 22,915.28.

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