US STOCKS-Apple revenue miss to challenge stocks rally

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 24, 2013 14:10 hrs

* China, Europe PMIs lift sentiment

* 3M boosts Dow after earnings

* Netflix jumps after earns

* Jobless claims data on tap

* Futures: S&P down 1.5 pt, Dow up 10 pts, Nasdaq off 38.50

By Edward Krudy

NEW YORK, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were set to fall Thursday as Apple slid nearly 10 percent following a revenue miss, and analysts said equities may be due for a pullback after a six-day rally.

Apple Inc missed Wall Street's revenue forecast for a third straight quarter after iPhone sales came in below expectations, fanning fears its dominance of consumer electronics is slipping. The shares dropped 9.8 percent to $463.84 in premarket trading, wiping out about $50 billion of its market value.

However, some positive economic news looked set to put a floor under stock prices. Growth in Chinese manufacturing accelerated to a two-year high this month and a buoyant Germany took the euro zone economy a step closer to recovery, business surveys showed on Thursday.

That chimed with positive U.S. data, showing the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell to its lowest since the early days of the 2007-09 recession, a hopeful sign for the sluggish labor market.

With signs the economy is improving and futures indicating only slight losses in the S&P 500 after the open, some investors are lauding the strength of the stock market rather than calling an end to the rally.

"The market has disconnected itself with Apple," said Jack de Gan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory Corp in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. "I think it shows great strength in the overall S&P."

The S&P 500 rose for a sixth day on Wednesday following stronger-than-expected results from IBM and Google . But Apple could now halt that rally, which had lifted stocks to five-year highs.

On Thursday, S&P 500 futures fell 1.5 point and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 10 points and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 38.50 points.

Netflix Inc surprised Wall Street Wednesday with a quarterly profit after the video subscription service added nearly 4 million customers in the U.S. and abroad. Shares jumped nearly 40 percent in premarket trading.

Apple's disappointing results drew a round of price-target cuts from brokerages. At least 14 brokerages, including Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank, cut their price target on the stock by $142 on average. Morgan Stanley removed the stock from its 'best ideas' list.

"The march to 1,500 on the S&P is looking quite strong, the question is will Apple be the spoiler?" said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

"My guess is that while Nasdaq might suffer losses today, both the Dow and the S&P may do otherwise based on economic news out of China and Europe."

Diversified U.S. manufacturer 3M Co reported a 3.9 percent rise in profit, meeting expectations, on solid growth in sales of its wide array of products, which range from Post-It notes to films used in television screens. The shares shed 0.6 percent in premarket trading.

Corporate earnings have helped drive the recent stock market rally. Thomson Reuters data through Wednesday showed that of the 99 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings, 67.7 percent have exceeded expectations, above the 65 percent average over the past four quarters.

Investors in U.S.-based mutual funds pumped $9.32 billion into stock funds in the week ended Jan. 16, the second consecutive week of inflows for such funds, data from the Investment Company Institute showed Wednesday.

Removing an element of political uncertainty from markets, the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a Republican plan to allow the federal government to keep borrowing money through mid-May, clearing it for fast enactment after the top Senate Democrat and White House endorsed it.

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