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GLOBAL MARKETS-Apple shares jump 8 pct, Asian stocks lag

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Thu, Apr 24, 2014 01:10 hrs

* Apple shares jump 8 pct after hours on buyback, results

* Nasdaq futures rally 1 pct after Wednesday's weakness

* New Zealand dollar higher as central bank hikes rates

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY, April 24 (Reuters) - 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 muted cheer on the news.

Seoul shares added 0.2 percent as Samsung Electronics climbed 1.7 percent, but Japan's Nikkei struggled to make any headway at all.

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

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

The 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, 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 could have a positive knock-on effect across some of Asia's 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.

NZD THE LONE MOVER

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 a high of $0.8623 after the announcement.

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 102.51, having yo-yoed in a 101.50 to 104.50 yen band for almost three months now.

Likewise, the euro was little changed at $1.3815 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 12 cents to $109.23 a barrel, while U.S. crude gained 14 cents to $101.58.

Gold was holding steady around $1,283.36 an ounce but remained uncomfortably close to major chart support at $1,275. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Chris Gallagher)




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