Employment Growth Drives Markets Higher: Morning Buzzers

Stock futures erased early losses and struck out for positive territory on Friday morning following a positive labor market report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that total non-farm payroll employment increased by 165,000 in April, pushing the headline U-3 unemployment rate down a fraction to 7.5 percent.

The news folds into the ongoing discussion about how the Federal Reserve should proceed with record bond purchases. The headline 7.5 percent unemployment rate is still a long ways from the 6.5 percent target rate previously outlined by the Fed. However, the size of the Fed’s balance sheet has grown to such enormous proportions that critics have called for an early end to the program.

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At 8:55 a.m.: DJIA: +0.79%, S&P 500: +0.78%, NASDAQ: +0.76%.

Here’s what’s buzzing on Friday morning:

LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) stock was off as much as 8.3 percent in pre-market trading on Friday morning. The world’s largest professional social network posted relatively strong first-quarter results, but provided underwhelming guidance. Net income surged 210 percent to $52.4 million. On a per share basis, the company earned 45 cents per share, beating expectations for 30 cents by a wide margin. Revenue jumped 72 percent to $324.7 million, also beating Wall Street’s consensus estimate for $324.7 million. Linked in guided second-quarter revenues in a range between $342 and $347 million, below expectations for $358 million… (Read more.)

AIG (NYSE:AIG) stock was up 2.25 percent in early trading on Friday morning. The insurer, now a favorite among hedge funds after nearly collapsing during the financial crisis, reported first-quarter financial results that were generally satisfying. Insurance operating income climbed 28 percent on the year to $3.0 billion. Overall profit fell 35 percent to $1.98 billion, or $1.34 per share, which beat estimates for $0.87 per share.

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Verizon (NYSE:VZ) could conceivably buy out Vodafone’s (NASDAQ:VOD) 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless, but not at a premium. Analysts at JPMorgan suggest that Verizon can avoid buying the unit above cost because of its already-controlling interest in it. The two companies have danced around the subject for a number of months, and Mr. Market has driven up share prices in anticipation of a possible deal.

Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) climbed about 1 percent in pre-market trading after announcing that it will add Google Play to the Nook HD and Nook HD+.

Kraft Foods Group (NASDAQ:KRFT) was up nearly 3 percent in pre-market trading, following the company’s earnings announcement after the bell on Thursday. Revenue rose 2 percent to $4.55 billion, beating the average estimate of $4.49 billion. Adjusted earnings of $0.76 per share beat the average estimate of $0.64 per share.

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