US equities were higher Thursday afternoon as investors were optimistic that Greece would complete a vital bond swap deal in order to avoid a debt default.
By the close, the Dow Jones had added 70 points to 12,907, with the NASDAQ climbing 35 points to 2970.
Greece is moving closer to finalizing the arrangement with its private sector creditors on the restructuring of its debt.
The deal is the final hurdle Greece must pass to secure the second 130 billion euro bailout from the EU and IMF.
If the deal is not finalized by the deadline this afternoon, however, the receipt of the European country’s bailout package will be at threat, and Greece could be faced with a default later this month.
Initial press reports say that investors holding around 60% of Greek government bonds eligible for the swap have indicated they will take part.
On the domestic front, investors are anxiously awaiting the US government’s monthly jobs report due out Friday morning.
A CNNMoney survey predicts that the economy added 210,000 jobs in February, with the unemployment rate unchanged at 8.3%.
On the economic front Thursday, 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Excluding one time items, adjusted earnings fell to 69 cents from 84 cents.
Analysts polled by Bloomberg were projecting earnings of 64 cents a share and revenue of $3.5 billion.
Canadian Natural Resources (TSE:CNQ) (NYSE:CNQ) said Thursday it returned to profitability in the fourth quarter, leading the oil and gas producer to boost its dividend payout.
McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD) said Thursday that global comparable sales rose 7.5 percent in February, reflecting benefit from an extra day due to leap year, and strong US sales.
But slowing international growth led the world’s largest burger chain to fall short of analyst calls for an 8.15 percent increase for the month.
TransGlobe Energy (TSE:TGL) (NASDAQ:TGA) reported a massive spike to its fourth quarter earnings on Thursday, as the company produced more oil during the period and sold it at a higher price.
Casual fashion and shoe retailer Buckle (NYSE:BKE) posted better than expected fourth quarter profits Thursday amid strong online and same store sales growth.
Dynegy (NYSE:DYN) said it widened its fourth quarter loss on Thursday, citing a difficult market environment.
For the three months that ended December 31, the energy company posted a net loss of $1.38 billion, or $11.29 loss per share, compared to a net loss of just $164 million, or $1.36 per share, a year ago.
Navistar International (NYSE:NAV) cut its full year 2012 outlook on Thursday, after the company posted a wider than expected loss in its first quarter.
Commodities Gold for April delivery added $14.80, or 0.9%, to end at $1,698.70 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange on hopes that Greece would finalize its crucial debt swap deal.
Crude for April delivery advanced for the same reason, rising 42 cents, or 0.4%, to $106.58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Europe 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%, and the DAX and the CAC 40 jumping 2.5%.
Michael Johnson is a business journalist based in New York, US. Michael has a passion for financial markets and breaking news stories and loves writing about business news, stock market, and economic opinions that matters most to its audience. Michael spends a lot of time discovering and researching latest financial markets and industry news stories in order to make sure the latest and greatest stories are brought to you first on BigBoardNews.com.