* 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 Asian markets could get a lift
on Thursday after tech heavyweights Apple and Facebook beat Wall
Street expectations, sending their stock up sharply and boosting
The results came out after the close on Wednesday so could
not stop the major U.S. indices from ending in the red, but
futures pointed to a bounce on Thursday. The Nasdaq futures
were up 1 percent and the S&P 500 0.3 percent.
Sentiment on the tech sector brightened after Apple
decided to buy back $30 billion of its shares out to the end of
2015 and authorized a seven-for-one stock split. Its shares
jumped almost 8 percent to $566.50 in after-hours trade.
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
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.
Boeing Co shares were up 2.4 percent after its
first-quarter revenue beat expectations, while lifting its core
earnings forecast to reflect a tax settlement gain.
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 $0.8621 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 102.49, having
yo-yoed in a 101.50 to 104.50 band for almost three months now.
Likewise, the euro was little changed at $1.3817
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 indices (PMI) 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 dipped on Wednesday after
U.S. crude inventories hit a record high, though the continuing
crisis in Ukraine kept a floor under the market.
Brent crude for June delivery lost 16 cents to
$109.11 a barrel. U.S. crude had pared some losses early
Thursday to be up 9 cents at $101.53 a barrel.
Gold was holding steady around $1,284.50 an ounce but
remained uncomfortably close to major chart support at $1,275.
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)