* Indexes cut early gains on geopolitical concerns
* Apple rallies, announces 7-for-1 stock split
* Caterpillar gains after results; Verizon, 3M fall
* Indexes down: Dow 0.2 pct, S&P 0.1 pct, Nasdaq 0.1 pct
(Updates to open)
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, April 24 U.S. stocks were flat in
volatile trading on Thursday, with indexes cutting early gains
on a resurgence of concerns related to Ukraine, though Apple
jumped following its results.
Markets had opened higher, with the Nasdaq especially
gaining on the back of strong tech results. However, indexes
turned negative in the first half-hour of trading after Russian
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia started military
drills near the border with Ukraine.
The issue "is a lit stick of dynamite" with remote chances
of a peaceful resolution, said Todd Schoenberger, managing
partner at LandColt Capital in New York. "All those geopolitical
concerns warrant instability and higher commodity prices, and
both of those are things Wall Street hates."
Apple Inc, the most valuable U.S. company by market
capitalization, rose 7.5 percent to $563.89 a day after posting
revenue that far outpaced expectations, helped by strong iPhone
sales. It also approved another $30 billion stock buyback plan,
raised its dividend and authorized a seven-for-one stock split.
"People have been critical of the cash on Apple's balance
sheet, but now it has faced up to that criticism. It's doing all
the right things, and I don't think a move over $600 would be
out of place now," said Michael Binger, senior portfolio manager
at Gradient Investments LLC in Minneapolis, which owns Apple.
Caterpillar Inc rose 2.5 percent to $106.01 after
reporting better-than-expected earnings and raising its
full-year profit view. On the downside, both
Verizon Communications Inc and 3M Co fell after
results missed expectations. Verizon dropped 1.7 percent to
$46.60 and 3M fell 1.4 percent to $136.11.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 31.08
points, or 0.19 percent, at 16,470.57. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 1.87 points, or 0.10 percent, at 1,873.52.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 7.74 points, or 0.19
percent, at 4,119.23.
Social media giant Facebook Inc posted a 72 percent
jump in first-quarter revenue, lifted by its mobile advertising
business. After opening sharply higher, the stock pared its
gains, last trading down 0.5 percent at $60.93.
Strong earnings have lifted the S&P 500 for six of the past
seven sessions, though companies have largely been beating
reduced forecasts. According to Thomson Reuters data, profits
are seen rising 1.6 percent this quarter, down from the 6.5
percent growth rate estimated at the start of the year,
according to Thomson Reuters data.
A number of cloud-computing stocks, which have struggled
lately but rose last week, opened higher and then quickly sold
off. Workday Inc fell 6.6 percent while Salesforce.com
was off 3.7 percent at $53.60.
Zimmer Holdings Inc agreed to buy Biomet Inc
in a deal valued at about $13.35 billion to broaden
its portfolio of products that treat bone and joint-related
disorders. Zimmer rose 15.5 percent to $105.69.
Sina Corp fell 7.4 percent to $49.31 after Chinese
state media reported the company had been stripped of its online
publication license after being targeted in a pornography
(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)