- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 25, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — The Nasdaq composite index shot 2 percent higher Wednesday, powered by a surge in Apple. The iPhone maker’s stock climbed more than $50 after the company once again blew past Wall Street’s profit forecasts.

The technology-focused Nasdaq was headed for one of its best days this year.

Apple, by far the biggest component of the index, climbed 8 percent after reporting that its earnings doubled from January through March. The company sold 35 million iPhones, twice as many as in the similar quarter a year ago.

The surge made back about half of what Apple lost in the two weeks before its earnings announcement late Tuesday. One reason for the slump was an analyst’s suggestion that Apple could not keep up the momentum in iPhone sales.

Stock in Apple, the most valuable public company in the world, hit $644 in intraday trading on April 10. It slid as low as $555 on Tuesday. In afternoon trading Wednesday, it was up $50 at $610.

The gain helped power the Nasdaq up 62 points to 3,024. Apple makes up 12 percent of the Nasdaq, the biggest component by far.

The Nasdaq rose more than other market indexes thanks to its heavy weighting of Apple shares. The Nasdaq was up 2.1 percent, compared with gains of 1.2 percent in the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index of large U.S. companies and 0.6 percent for the Dow Jones industrial average. The S&P 500 includes Apple; the Dow doesn’t.

The Dow was up 76 points to 13,077. The S&P 500 rose 17 points to 1,389. Apple makes up about 4 percent of the S&P 500.

Financial markets barely budged after the Federal Reserve said it would stick with its plan to keep a key short-term interest rate near zero. The Fed detailed no plans to extend its bond-buying program when the current iteration ends in June.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged higher following the Fed’s announcement. Gold prices fell and the dollar rose slightly against other currencies. Stock indexes stayed where they were.

Technology stocks in the S&P 500 rose nearly 3 percent as a group, the best-performing industry in the market. Material and consumer-discretionary companies were also having a strong day.

Most European markets also rose. Benchmark stock indexes rose 3 percent in Italy and 2 percent in France. Germany’s market gained 1.7 percent. British shares were up just 0.2 percent following news that the British economy had fallen back into recession for the first time since 2009.

For Europe, Apple may not be an economic bellwether, but analysts said it’s a valuable gauge of confidence in markets.

Among other stocks making moves:

• Boeing rose 4 percent, the best performer among the 30 stocks that make up the Dow. Its first-quarter profit soared 58 percent as airlines around the world update their fleets with more fuel-efficient planes.

• Harley-Davidson jumped 5 percent. U.S. sales of the company’s motorcycles soared 26 percent in the first three months of the year, the fourth straight increase. The company credited the gain to a better U.S. economy and a restructuring program the company put in place four years ago.

• Lorillard fell 5 percent after the cigarette maker reported a 10 percent drop in income for the first quarter. The company said higher prices couldn’t make up for a fall in sales of its Newport and Maverick cigarettes.

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