Nasdaq Futures Soar After Apple; Caterpillar, GM Loom

The Nasdaq Composite could steal the show on Wall Street later on Thursday, with tech futures soaring more than 1% in the wake of strong results from Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc.

Other stock futures also pointed higher, but less dramatically, as investors looked ahead to one of the busiest days of the week for earnings. Caterpillar Inc., General Motors Co. and 3M Co. are among the heavyweights to report ahead of the bell, while the data side will deliver durable-goods orders and weekly jobless claims.

Futures for the Nasdaq 100 NDM4 +1.22% jumped 42 points, or 1.2%, to 3,596.50, while those for the S&P 500 indexSPM4 +0.34%  rose 6.7 points, or 0.4%, to 1,879.60. Futures for the Dow industrialsDJM4 +0.21%  added 33 points to 16,493.

Driving that feel-good tech sentiment, shares of Apple AAPL +7.32%  rose nearly 8% in late trading on Wednesday after earnings and revenue topped Wall Street forecasts and the company announced a7-for-1 stock split. Also: Apple’s split could pave way into Dow industrials, for whatever that’s worth

If Apple matches that gain on Thursday, it would be the best day since April 2012 for the stock, when it rose 8.9%.

Also pleasing Wall Street, Facebook FB +4.89%  posted first-quarter earnings that nearly tripled and revenue that jumped 72%, with both numbers blowing out forecasts. Ad sales for Facebook surged 82% and shares rose 4% in late trading.

“Facebook and Apple having reported, we have now seen 32% of S&P 500 companies report, with an above-average 74.8% having beaten on EPS, while 53.5% have beaten on the revenue line,” said Chris Weston, analyst with IG, in a note. He adds that big revenue growth has largely come from the oil and gas space — 9.6% year-on-year.

But markets have another huge earnings day to get through on Thursday, with Microsoft Corp. MSFT +0.45% , Starbucks Corp. SBUX +1.35%  and Inc. AMZN +1.64%  all due after Wall Street’s close. Ahead of the open, economic bellwether CaterpillarCAT -0.03% CAT -0.03% CAT -0.03% CAT -0.03% CAT -0.03% CAT -0.03% will take the stage.

“The market currently expects [first-quarter] EPS of $1.23, and interestingly, it has missed in four of the last five quarters, although the market generally looks at commentary more importantly, with the stock rallying [in] five of the last seven earnings reports,” said Weston.

Also coming premarket are 3M MMM +0.30% , with analysts expecting earnings of $1.80 a share, and General Motors GM -0.06% , seen earning 24 cents a share. But those are just the tip of the iceberg, as more than a dozen companies report ahead of the open.

On the economic front, durable-goods orders for March will be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Economists polled by MarketWatch foresee a 1.8% advance in March orders after a preliminary 2.2% gain in February. But stripping out transportation, orders are projected to rise less than 1%.

At the same time, the government will issue weekly jobless claims. Economists predict these will climb to 315,000 in the seven days ended April 19, largely due to Easter, as claims often rise around the holiday. Read: Spotlight on the economy

Whether tech can power the broader market higher later remains to be seen. On Wednesday, a winning streak that lasted six sessions came to an end for both the Nasdaq Composite COMP -0.83%   and the S&P 500 SPX -0.22% , which has been trading near record levels. Nervousness ahead of Apple and Facebook, but also disappointing home-sale and manufacturing numbers, weighed on investors.

Among other companies that could be active early Thursday,Qualcomm Inc. QCOM -3.75%  could see pressure after the wireless-technology firm reported an earnings view that beat forecasts, but missed on sales.

Also gaining in late trade Wednesday after results were Zynga Inc. ZNGA +5.88% , Angie’s List Inc. ANGI +9.13% , Texas Instruments Inc. TXN +3.38%  and Citrix Systems Inc.CTXS +2.79% . Also: Zynga founder Pincus gives up operating role

Overseas, Wall Street’s pullback drove some losses across Asia , with the Nikkei 225 index JP:NIK -0.97%  off nearly 1%. In Europe XX:SXXP +0.59%  banks and industrial stocks were leading a path higher.

In other markets, crude-oil prices CLM4 +0.24%  rose, while gold GCM4 -0.05%  was largely flat and the ICE dollar index DXY -0.13% , a gauge of its strength against six rivals, fell.

Source: Market Watch