Apple to Lift Nasdaq, But Broader Market Stuck in Neutral

Stocks are faced with an onslaught of economic data and financial news Wednesday morning, including word that Japan reported its first annual trade deficit last year since 1980. Apple shares, however, are soaring, helping Nasdaq futures.

The red ink totaled $32 billion, and Japan says it won’t get back into the black until 2012. Still, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rallied 1.1% Wednesday with big exporters including Honda and Sony gaining around 4%. One of the reasons for Japan’s trade shortfall is the surging value of the yen, making Japanese exports more expensive and less desirable for foreigners.

In Europe, meanwhile, UK GDP came in at -0.2% in the 4Q and down from 0.6% growth in the 3Q. Louise Cooper, market analyst at BGC Partners, notes that “if the first quarter of this year also sees a contraction that would make two quarters of declines -- in which case the UK would officially be back in recession.”

Germany is faring better, with the much-watched Ifo index of business optimism rising for the third month in a row, a sign that Germany may show moderate growth this year despite the ongoing European debt crisis that is crippling many of its neighbors.

In the U.S., stocks are set to open modestly lower. During the past four sessions, the Dow has moved by less than 100 points, ending Tuesday’s session down 33 points at 12,675.

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock is going gangbusters after the tech giant posted record-breaking quarterly profit and sales after Tuesday’s closing bell.  Apple said it sold 37 million iPhone 4S’s and 15.4 million iPads in the final three months of 2011, crushing analyst expectations.

Morgan Keegan Equity Research notes that Apple is “breaking the law of large numbers” and has upped its price target on the stock to $650.  Apple closed Tuesday’s session at $420.41.  Several other Wall Street brokerages have raised their price targets on Apple shares.

Morgan Keegan adds that Apple “was properly positioned with supply in most (global) markets.”  Every market where Apple sells its products saw gains of at least 50%.