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US: Stocks end higher but Twitter, Apple stifle gains


[NEW YORK] US stocks finished mostly higher on Thursday but Apple's selloff left the Nasdaq in the red and NYSE-traded Twitter's unintentional early earnings release held back overall gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 72.17 points (0.40 per cent) at 18,110.14.

The broader S&P 500 rose 5.84 (0.28 per cent) to 2,114.76, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite gave up 4.82 (0.10 per cent) at 5,055.42.

The market recovered after an early downturn that followed an unexpected and sharp fall in the April consumer confidence index from the Conference Board.

Twitter shares plunged 18.2 per cent in the final hour of trade as its first-quarter revenue of US$436 million came in well below the expected $456 million. Its net loss increased 22.7 per cent from a year ago to US$162.4 million.

Twitter called the early release of the results, about half hour before the markets closed instead of their scheduled release after the close, a "leak" but it was not clear whether the company itself, or someone else, was the source.

"We asked the NYSE to halt trading once we discovered our Q1 earnings numbers had leaked, and published our results as soon as possible," Twitter said.

"We are investigating the source of the leak."

Shares of Apple, the world's largest company by market value, sank 1.6 per cent despite its strong China-driven results released late Monday, with quarterly revenues up 27 per cent.

Patrick O'Hare of noted that Apple shares had climbed 6.0 per cent over the previous six market sessions.

"If Apple has anything truly working against it, we'd have to say it is the high expectations the company faces that are starting to rub up against the law of large numbers," he said.

Merck though held up the Dow with a 5.0 per cent gain, impressing investors as sales and profits in the first quarter, though lower than a year ago, beat analyst expectations. Adjusted earnings per share came in at 85 US cents, 11 US cents above forecasts.

The company raised its full-year adjusted earnings per share forecast to US$3.35- US$3.48, slightly better than the previous guidance.

Microsoft (+2.3 per cent), IBM (+1.9 per cent) and Intel (+1.6 per cent) also propped up the blue-chip index.

Dow member Pfizer dipped 0.3 per cent after cutting its 2015 full-year forecast, citing a hit from the stronger dollar.

Among other companies reporting results Tuesday: Ford rose 1.0 per cent, Bristol Myers Squibb lost 1.0 per cent, UPS gained 3.4 per cent and Coach lost 6.3 per cent.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 1.97 per cent from 1.93 per cent Monday, while the 30-year rose to 2.67 per cent from 2.61 per cent.

Bond prices and yields move inversely.