Global stocks edge higher, data offsets Apple's plunge

NEW YORK Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:03pm EST

1 of 9. Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, January 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - World equity and commodity markets rose on Thursday on encouraging economic data, with U.S. stocks briefly topping a key psychological milestone despite a selloff in Apple shares that wiped out about $60 billion of its market value.

In currency markets the dollar soared 2 percent against the yen, on track for its biggest one-day gain in nearly 15 months, after a Japanese official said the government had no problem with the dollar strengthening to 100 yen.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) fell 12.4 percent to $450.50 after the iPhone maker gave a revenue forecast late on Wednesday that missed Wall Street's estimate for a third straight quarter.

The strong downdraft from Apple was offset by surprisingly strong economic signals. U.S. factory activity grew the most in nearly two years in January and the number of new claims for jobless benefits dropped to a five-year low last week.

In a third report the Conference Board's Leading Economic Index rose last month, pointing to improved U.S. growth ahead.

"You have Apple and technology on the one side and the rest of the market on the other side," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Hugh Johnson Advisors LLC in Albany, New York.

Early U.S. stock gains pushed the S&P 500 above 1,500 for the first time since December 12, 2007, but the benchmark index closed below the symbolic mark.

The index eked out a gain by the tiniest of margins - a hundredth of 1 point - allowing the S&P 500 to advance for a seventh straight session in the longest winning streak since October 2006.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI closed up 46.00 points, or 0.33 percent, at 13,825.33. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX rose 0.01 point to 1,494.82. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC fell 23.29 points, or 0.74 percent, at 3,130.38, pulled lower by Apple.

Todd Colvin, senior vice president of global institutional sales with R.J. O'Brien & Associates in Chicago, said risk-takers are being rewarded so far in 2013.

"It's a reach for return in the equities market," Colvin said.

MSCI's world equity index .MIWD00000PUS rose 0.14 percent to 353.18, lifted by business surveys showing growth in Chinese manufacturing accelerated to a two-year high in January.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 of top European shares closed up 0.29 percent at 1,171.06 on signs of growth in Germany, which bolstered expectations that the region's sovereign debt crisis may be easing.

"The Chinese data bodes well for demand which translates into top line revenue growth. If global demand goes up, it's good for U.S. equities," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey, with more than $1 trillion in assets under management.

U.S. Treasury debt prices slipped after the weekly jobless data fell to a five-year low, raising hopes of an improving U.S. labor market and paring safe-haven bets on government debt.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell 8/32 in price to yield 1.8542 percent, as investors moved funds into stocks.

The growing confidence in the pace of China's economic recovery helped keep Brent crude oil above $113 a barrel. Brent settled 48 cents higher at $113.28.

U.S. crude futures rose 72 cents to settle $95.95 a barrel.

U.S. COMEX gold futures for February delivery settled down $16.80 at $1,669.90 an ounce.

The yen tumbled against the dollar, snapping a three-day advance, after the Japanese official's comments.

The yen has lost more than 10 percent of its value since November -- weakening to about 90 per dollar from 80 -- on expectations Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will force the central bank to ease monetary policy to combat deflation.

The dollar was up 2.02 percent at 90.38 against the yen, while the euro rose 0.47 percent at $1.3378.

(Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Richard Leong in New York and Richard Hubbard in London; Editing by Dan Grebler, Chizu Nomiyama and Kenneth Barry)

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