Nasdaq Futures Surge 2% on Apple Earnings

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Nasdaq futures zoomed 2% higher on Wednesday after technology titan Apple posted blockbuster quarterly results. Meanwhile, other markets advanced by a slimmer margin as traders digested much worse-than-expected durable goods data and earnings from two blue chips.

Today's Markets

As of 8:35 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures gained 29 points to 12988, S&P 500 futures rose 7.7 points to 1378 and Nasdaq 100 futures soared 52.3 points to 2685.

Apple, the world's biggest publicly-traded company by market capitalization, earned $11.6 billion in its fiscal second quarter on sales of $39.2 billion, easily beating analysts' expectations. The iPad-maker's shares, which had seen selling pressure over the previous 11 trading days, soared some 10% in pre-market action on Wednesday.

The company makes up 29% of the closely-watched Nasdaq 100 index of non-financial companies and 4% of the S&P 500, according to Reuters, meaning moves can have an outsized affect on Wall Street as a whole.

Traders also got results from Dow heavyweights Boeing (NYSE:BA) and Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT).

Boeing unveiled first-quarter earnings of $1.22 a share on sales of $19.4 billion, handily beating expectations of 94 cents on $18.37 billion. The airplane maker also lifted its full-year forecast to a range of $4.15 a share to $4.35 from $4.05 to $4.25.

Caterpillar posted first-quarter earnings of $2.37 a share on revenue of $15.98 billion. Analysts were looking for $2.13 a share on $16.22 billion. The world’s biggest heavy machinery maker also said it expects to earn about $9.50 a share for the full year, weaker than consensus estimates of $9.54.

Overall, first-quarter earnings season has been strong, analysts have said, boosting hopes that American firms may be able to dodge the malaise in Europe and slowing growth in China.

It is set to be a busy day on the economic front as well.

The Commerce Department reported orders for long-lasting goods plunged 4.2% in March, the biggest decline since January 2009 and a significantly steeper drop than the 1.7% expected. Excluding the transportation segment, orders were down 1.1%. Economists had been expecting a 0.5% gain.

The Federal Reserve then releases its monetary policy statement at around 12:30 p.m. ET. Expectations are that the central bank will hold rates at extraordinarily low levels and hold off on unleashing any new forms of stimulus pending any slowdown in the economy. Still, analysts will be looking closely to see what the Fed's outlook is for economic growth, unemployment and inflation, and any hints that another round of quantitative easing is on the horizon.

In the afternoon, the Fed will release its economic projections and Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold a news conference, in which members of the media will be able to ask questions relating to the economy and monetary policy.

Energy futures were mostly to the upside. Crude oil traded in New York rose 69 cents, or 0.67%, to $104.24 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline climbed 0.08% to $3.16 a gallon.

In metals, gold slipped 90 cents, or 0.05%, to $1,643 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips rallied 1.5%, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.12% to 5716 and the German DAX soared 1.2% to 6671.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 climbed 0.98% to 9561 and the Chinese Hang Seng slumped 0.15% to 20646.