NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global equity markets rose in choppy trading on Thursday in the wake of strong earnings results from tech heavyweights Apple and Facebook, but worries about rising tensions in Ukraine limited gains and dragged the dollar lower.
Apple,, the most valuable U.S. company by market capitalization, rose 8.2 percent to $567.77, a day after posting revenue that far exceeded expectations. Facebook Inc’s and Caterpillar Inc’s earnings also beat expectations.
“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.
The strong earnings set the tone for the rise in global share indexes, but rising tensions surrounding Ukraine stifled the advance. Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Moscow rebels on Thursday as they closed in on the separatists’ military stronghold in the east, while Russia launched army drills near the border in response.
Fears of escalating conflict between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have risen since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region last month, and armed protesters in eastern Ukraine have captured several towns.
The concerns were partially responsible for a quick turnaround in U.S. stocks after a sharp rally at the opening. Facebook and Apple posted their results after Wednesday’s market close, and Apple’s announcement of a large stock buyback and a stock split motivated buyers.
Shares of Facebook and General Motors were down modestly on Thursday after initial gains following results, while bellwethers Caterpillar and Aetna remained higher after better-than-expected results.
U.S. Treasuries prices traded slightly lower after data showing stronger-than-expected U.S. durable goods orders reduced safe-haven bids, but the concerns over Ukraine erased much of the losses. The 10-year Treasury note last traded flat to yield 2.69 percent.
“We had pretty decent earnings overnight and that gave equities a boost, but the Ukraine tensions heated up and as a result we saw yields come down a bit,” said Kim Rupert, managing director for fixed income at Action Economics in San Francisco.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed unchanged to 16,501.65, the S&P 500 gained 3.22 points or 0.17 percent, to 1,878.61 and the Nasdaq Composite added 21.372 points or 0.52 percent, to 4,148.338.
The dollar slipped against major currencies, hit by the tensions on the Russia/Ukraine border. The dollar had earlier risen broadly after U.S. durable goods data for March came in above expectations.
European stock markets rebounded from earlier weakness, stemming from the Ukraine tensions, on signs of a resurgence in corporate takeover activity. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which hit a near 6-year high of 1,355.29 points this month, closed up 0.3 percent at 1,343.27 points.
“The merger and acquisition activity we have been seeing is supportive and confirms our view that there is more value left in the European equity market,” said Andrew Arbuthnott, head of European large cap equity at Pioneer Investments.
The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 nations, rose 0.12 percent.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback versus a basket of six currencies, fell 0.085 points, or 0.1 percent, to 79.773. The dollar was last down 0.21 percent against the yen at 102.32.
Oil prices were higher. Brent crude for June delivery added $1.29 to $110.40 a barrel, while U.S. crude gained 51 cents to $101.95.
Gold futures for June delivery were last up 0.62 percent, at $1,292.6 an ounce.
Reporting by Sam Forgione; additional reporting by Marc Jones and Sudip Kar-Gupta in London and Ryan Vlastelica and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler, Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski