Higher Open As Jobless Claims Drop

An unexpected drop in first time applications for unemployment benefits lifted the markets to a higher open with the Dow gaining 56 points to 12,832. Nasdaq rose 6 points to 2922.

On the upside

Grupo Elecktra will pay a premium of approximately $656 million in cash to acquire short term lender Advance America, Cash Advance Centers (NYSE: AEA).

Third quarter earnings fell for NetApp (Nasdaq: NTAP) but revenue rose to top estimates and the company forecast fourth quarter results in line with expectations.

General Motors (NYSE: GM) reported a record profit of $7.6 billion for 2011.

On the downside

PMFG (Nasdaq: PMFG) priced its public offering of 2.6 million common shares at the discounted price of $16 per share.

Hyperdynamics (NYSE: HDY) discovered oil shows at its Sabu-1 exploration well indicating that larger volumes of oil had been in the reservoirs but had leaked out over time.

Avis Budget Group (Nasdaq: CAR) widened fourth quarter losses even as revenue rose.

In the broad market, advancing issues outpaced decliners by a margin of more than 7 to 5 on both the NYSE and on Nasdaq. The Russell 2000 which tracks small cap stocks added 2 points to 816.

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