GLOBAL MARKETS-Apple shares hit 2014 highs, Asian stocks lag
* Apple shares jump 8 pct after hours on buyback, results
* Nasdaq futures rally 1 pct after Wednesday's weakness
* New Zealand dollar up as central bank hikes rates, again
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 mumbled cheer.
The Nikkei slipped 0.97 percent with some investors apparently disappointed that a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama made no concrete progress on a trade deal.
Markets were mixed elsewhere across the region with Singapore up 0.5 percent, but Shanghai off 0.3 percent. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged ahead by a tenth of a percent.
The outlook for the U.S. market was brighter, however, with Nasdaq futures up 1 percent and the S&P 500 E-mini adding 0.3 percent.
European bourses were also set for a positive day, with the FTSE 100, DAX and CAC 40 futures all starting 0.3 to 0.5 percent firmer.
The gains come 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.
Facebook Inc shares also boasted a 3.7 percent jump after hours as the Internet social networking company topped Wall Street's financial targets.
Of the 158 S&P 500 companies that have reported so far, 75 percent have beaten earnings expectations.
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 $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. The U.S. dollar eased slightly on the yen to 102.35, but remains trapped in a 101.50 to 104.50 band that has held for almost three months now.
Likewise, the euro was little changed at $1.3819 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 17 cents to $109.28 a barrel, while U.S. crude gained 22 cents to $101.66.
Gold edged higher to $1,286.05 an ounce but remained uncomfortably close to major chart support at $1,275. (Editing by Chris Gallagher & Shri Navaratnam)
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