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The broad S&P 500 brushed up on the 1500 mark for the first time since before the financial crisis in December 2007. Meanwhile, shares of Apple weighed on the Nasdaq.

Today's Markets 

As of 3:40 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 66 points, or 0.48%, to 13845, the S&P 500 climbed 2.4 points, or 0.16%, to 1497 and the Nasdaq Composite dipped 18.5 points, or 0.58%, to 3135.

Despite the Nasdaq's weak performance, the broad markets actually fared well on the day. The best-performing sector by a wide margin were consumer cyclical stocks, followed by energy and industrials. The gains helped the broad S&P 500 break ahead of the 1500 mark for the first time since before the financial crisis. The index hit a 12-year low in March 2009 while the U.S. was still in the throes of the crisis and has now rebounded by some 96%.

Apple in the Spotlight

All eyes were on Apple (AAPL) Wednesday afternoon as the iPhone-maker stepped up to report its fiscal-first quarter earnings. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company revealed profits that topped expectations, and narrowly avoided the first year-over-year slide in nine years. However, revenues came in short, as did its forward guidance. 

Overall, Wall Street was disappointed, questions swirled over whether the company could be losing its touch, and shares nose dived some 10% after hours, sending the stock deeper into bear market territory. While some analysts remain bullish on the stock, the overall tone certainly turned negative. 

Jefferies, for example, cut its price target $300 to $500 a share, and slashed its rating from "buy" to "hold." The investment bank said in a note to clients that the "slowdown in iPhone sales is real and material" and that it worries about pressure to the company's margins. UBS, which still has Apple rated a "buy," sliced its target by another $50 to $600 a share. 

The company is the world's biggest on public markets by market capitalization, weighing in at close to half a trillion dollars. Big moves in its stock price weighs especially heavily on the Nasdaq. Apple isn't a Dow component, however, so the blue-chip average could hold up best to a big drop in Apple shares. 

Also in corporate news, 3M (MMM) posted fourth-quarter profits that matched expectations and revenues that came in above forecasts. 

Traders also had a batch of economic data to parse through. 

The Labor Department said new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to 330,000 -- the lowest level since January 2008 -- from 335,000 the week prior. Claims were expected to increase to 355,000. The four-week moving average, which smoothes out volatility, is at its lowest since March 2008 while continued claims are at their lowest since July 2008. 

A report from HSBC showed China's manufacturing sector growing at its fastest rate in two years. That comes as a bullish signal for the world's second-biggest economy. 

"Despite the still tepid external demand, the domestic-driven restocking process is likely to add steam to China's ongoing recovery in the coming months," Hongbin Qu, the bank's chief economist for China wrote in the report.

Oil futures edged up. The benchmark contract climbed 72 cents, or 0.76%, to $95.96 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline jumped 1% to $2.863 a gallon. In metals, gold dropped $16.80, or 1%, to $1,669 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 climbed 0.54% to 2723, the English FTSE 100 rallied 1.1% to 6265 and the German DAX rose 0.53% to 7748. 

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 1.3% to 10621 and the Chinese Hang Seng fell 0.15% to 23599.

 

Follow Adam Samson on Twitter @adamsamson.

Follow Adam Samson on Twitter @adamsamson.