Apple shares reach 2014 highs, Asian stocks lag

Shares in tech heavyweights Apple and Facebook held hefty after-hours gains on Thursday as their results handily outpaced Wall Street expectations, though Asian markets managed only a mumbled cheer on the news.

South Korea's Samsung Electronics did gain 0.6 percent but the main KOSPI index dipped a fraction. Markets were mixed across the region with Japan's Nikkei off 0.6 percent but Singapore up 0.5 percent.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged ahead by 0.1 percent.

The outlook for the U.S. market was brighter, however, with Nasdaq futures up 1.1 percent NDc1 and the S&P 500 E-mini ESc1 adding 0.3 percent.

Those gains came after Apple decided to buy back $30 billion of its shares through the end of 2015 and authorised a seven-for-one stock split.

Its shares jumped almost 8 percent to $566.50 in after-hours trade, the highest since December and adding roughly $35 billion to its market worth.

Apple reported sales of 43.7 million iPhones in the quarter ended March, far outpacing forecasts. That drove a 4.6 percent rise in revenue to $45.6 billion, a record for any non-holiday quarter.

The iPhone maker's strong performance did not translate into Asia as much as it usually does, with mixed trading seen among big tech players in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Facebook Inc shares also boasted a 3.7 percent jump after hours as the Internet social networking company topped Wall Street's financial targets.

The Nasdaq had ended Wednesday 0.83 percent lower, while the Dow eased 0.08 percent and the S&P 500 lost 0.22 percent.


The main mover in currencies was the New Zealand dollar, which hopped higher after the country's central bank raised interest rates by a quarter point to 3 percent and signalled there was more tightening to come.

The kiwi dollar gained around a third of a cent to $0.8623 in the wake of the news.

Yet that was the only excitement in a market that has been trading within frustratingly tight ranges recently. The U.S. dollar had barely budged on the yen at 102.45, having yo-yoed in a 101.50 to 104.50 yen band for almost three months now.

Likewise, the euro was little changed at $1.3822 after failing to sustain even the smallest of rallies overnight. It briefly popped up to $1.3854 following better news on euro zone manufacturing, but quickly ran out of steam.

The latest performance of manufacturing indexes showed euro zone businesses enjoyed the best month in nearly three years, led by a jump in Germany.

The "flash" PMI for the United States dipped a tick to 55.4 in April, missing forecasts of 56.0 but still pointing to solid growth in the sector.

However, there was worrying news on U.S. housing as new home sales dived 14.5 percent in March on top of a 4.5 drop in February. The annualised sales pace of 384,000 was the second slowest since late 2012, a blow to what has been a major driver of the U.S. economic recovery.

In commodity markets, oil prices recouped some of the losses suffered after U.S. crude inventories hit a record high, with the continuing crisis in Ukraine keeping a floor under the market.

Brent crude for June delivery added 19 cents to $109.30 a barrel, while U.S. crude CLc1 gained 21 cents to $101.65.

Gold was holding steady around $1,285.96 an ounce but remained uncomfortably close to major chart support at $1,275.


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