* Apple rallies a day after announcing 7-for-1 stock split
* Caterpillar gains after results; Verizon, 3M fall
* Dow off 0.04 pct; S&P 500 up 0.1 pct; Nasdaq up 0.4 pct
(Updates to mid-afternoon, changes byline)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, April 24 The Nasdaq rose modestly in
choppy trade on Thursday as Apple's shares rallied a day after
the iPad maker's strong results, though tensions in Ukraine held
back the broader market.
Caterpillar Inc shares jumped nearly 2 percent and
helped limit the Dow's loss after the world's largest maker of
earth-moving machinery reported earnings that exceeded Wall
The three major U.S. stock indexes had opened sharply
higher, with the Nasdaq initially climbing more than 1 percent
before turning negative in the first half-hour of trading. Wall
Street bounced off session lows with gains again concentrated in
the Nasdaq, but stocks remained well off earlier highs.
Much of the volatility was driven by comments from Russian
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who said Russia started military
drills near the border with Ukraine. In addition, Ukrainian
forces killed up to five pro-Moscow rebels as they closed in on
the separatists' military stronghold in the east.
Shares of Apple Inc, the most valuable U.S. company
by market capitalization, jumped 8.2 percent to $567.86, its
biggest gain in two years, a day after the company posted
revenue that far outpaced expectations. Apple also approved
another $30 billion stock-buyback plan, raised its dividend and
authorized a seven-for-one stock split. The S&P
information technology index rose 0.9 percent and was
the best-performing sector of the day.
"The market is biased - from all of the good news we've
heard on stocks recently - to go higher," said Kim Forrest,
senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in
"However, there are hot spots in the world that keep flaring
up like a campfire that won't go out, and the market needs to
deal with that."
Caterpillar Inc rose 1.8 percent to $105.22 after
the company reported better-than-expected earnings and raised
its full-year profit outlook.
Limiting the Dow's advance were Verizon Communications Inc
and 3M Co, whose shares fell after the companies'
results missed expectations. Verizon dropped 2.8 percent to
$46.10, while 3M fell 1.1 percent to $136.50.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 6.96 points or
0.04 percent, to 16,494.69. The S&P 500 gained 2.47
points or 0.13 percent, to 1,877.86. The Nasdaq Composite
added 18.155 points or 0.44 percent, to 4,145.122.
Facebook Inc reported a 72 percent jump in
first-quarter revenue, lifted by its mobile advertising
business, after the closing bell on Wednesday. The stock darted
between positive and negative territory, last trading down 0.03
percent at $61.34.
Profits are seen rising 2.9 percent this quarter, down from
the 6.5 percent growth rate estimated at the start of the year,
but above the low of 0.6 percent seen last week, according to
Thomson Reuters data.
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's stock surged 11.7 percent to $102.17.
A number of cloud-computing stocks, which have struggled
lately but rose last week, opened higher and then quickly sold
off. Workday Inc slid 6 percent to $72.01 while
Salesforce.com fell 1.9 percent to $54.58.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Jan Paschal)