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Juicy Apple buoys shares, euro volatility sinks

A woman walks past a stock quotation board displaying Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo July 19, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
A woman walks past a stock quotation board displaying Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo July 19, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Global stocks were back on the front foot on Thursday, as upbeat earnings from tech heavyweights Apple and Facebook helped shake off some of the jitters that have hit the sector in recent weeks.

European bourses started brightly, with the FTSE 100 up 0.5 percent and the DAX, the CAC 40 and markets in Madrid and Milan between 0.7 and 0.9 percent firmer.

The gains were boosted by the region's tech stocks and come after iPhone giant Apple reported record first quarter sales and laid out plans for a $30 billion share buy back and seven-for-one stock split.

Its shares jumped almost 8 percent to $566.50 in after-hours trade, the highest since December and adding roughly $35 billion to its market worth.

Facebook Inc shares jumped 3.7 percent after hours as the Internet social networking company topped Wall Street's expectations.

Asian markets managed only a subdued response, however, as the normal fillip from positive tech news failed to materialize.

The Nikkei slipped 0.97 percent with some investors apparently disappointed that a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama made no concrete progress on a trade deal.

Markets were mixed elsewhere across the region with Singapore up 0.5 percent, but Shanghai off 0.3 percent. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged ahead by a tenth of a percent.

The outlook for the U.S. market was brighter, however, with Nasdaq futures up 1.2 percent and the S&P 500 E-mini adding 0.3 percent.

NZD THE LONE MOVER

The main mover in currencies was the New Zealand dollar, which hopped higher after the country's central bank raised interest rates by a quarter point to 3 percent and signaled more tightening to come.

The kiwi gained around a third of a cent to

$0.8623.

That was the only excitement in a market that has been trading within tight ranges. The U.S. dollar eased slightly on the yen to 102.35, but remains trapped in a 101.50 to 104.50 band that has held for almost three months.

The euro was little changed at $1.3819 after failing to sustain even the smallest of rallies overnight. It briefly popped up to $1.3854 following better news on euro zone manufacturing, but quickly ran out of steam.

French and German sentiment surveys both came out with more-or-less steady readings on Thursday.

Traders were waiting to see what ECB President Mario Draghi has to say later at an event at Amsterdam but the recent improvement in euro zone data has bolstered the view the bank is unlikely to risk any aggressive QE-style moves for now.

Implied volatility between the euro and dollar reflected that benign view as it hovered at its lowest level since before the financial crisis in 2007.

"We are waiting for Draghi this morning but he doesn't have the data to make him any more dovish than he already is so at the margin euro dollar could drift higher," said Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes.

UKRAINE SIMMERS

In commodity markets, oil prices recouped some of the losses suffered after U.S. crude inventories hit a record high, with the crisis in Ukraine keeping a floor under the market.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States on Wednesday of being behind the political upheaval in Ukraine and said Moscow would respond if its interests came under attack.

Lavrov's comments came a day after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in the Ukrainian capital with promises of support for the pro-Western government, and a warning to Russia not to interfere in Ukraine.

Brent crude for June delivery added 17 cents to $109.28 a barrel, while U.S. crude gained 22 cents to $101.66.

Gold edged higher to $1,286.05 an ounce but remained uncomfortably close to major chart support at $1,275.

(Editing by Chris Gallagher and John Stonestreet)

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