Wall Street edges up in face of Apple decline

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Dow and S&P 500 advanced on Thursday, with the benchmark S&P index on track for its first seven-day streak of gains in over six years as solid economic data managed to outweigh a steep decline in Apple shares.

Apple Inc dropped 10.4 percent to $460.69 after the technology giant missed Wall Street's revenue forecast for a third straight quarter as iPhone sales were poorer than expected, lending credence to recent concerns its days as the dominant player in consumer electronics may be on the wane.

The drop wiped out roughly $50 billion in Apple's market capitalization to $432 billion, leaving the company vulnerable to losing its status as the most valuable U.S. company to second place ExxonMobil Corp, at $417 billion.

A trio of economic reports helped buoy the market, with data showing a decline in weekly jobless claims and an increase in manufacturing, while a gauge of future economic activity climbed.

"The claims numbers are clearly a big surprise and were very good numbers - they imply we may have a good employment number for the month of January," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Hugh Johnson Advisors LLC in Albany, New York.

"You have Apple and technology on the one side and the rest of the market on the other side."

The gains marked the first time the S&P 500 had risen above 1,500 since December 12, 2007 and put the index on pace for its seventh straight advance, its longest streak since October 2006.

The advance for the S&P, and muted declines in the Nasdaq in spite of the decline in Apple, were viewed as a positive sign, as investors take encouragement from an improving global economy and move into stocks more closely tied to economic fortunes, such as industrials.

General Electric rose 0.5 percent to $22.06 and United Parcel Service gained 2.4 percent to $82.30. Of the 10 major S&P sectors, only technology, off 1.5 percent, was lower.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 58.82 points, or 0.43 percent, to 13,838.15. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 1.78 points, or 0.12 percent, to 1,496.59. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 14.25 points, or 0.45 percent, to 3,139.42.

The domestic data meshed with those overseas showing growth in Chinese manufacturing accelerated to a two-year high this month and a buoyant Germany took the euro zone economy a step closer to recovery.

Apple's disappointing results drew a round of price-target cuts from brokerages. At least 14 brokerages, including Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank, cut their price target on the stock by $142 on average. Morgan Stanley removed the stock from its 'best ideas' list.

In contrast to Apple, Netflix Inc surprised Wall Street Wednesday with a quarterly profit after the video subscription service added nearly 4 million customers in the U.S. and abroad. Shares surged 37.6 percent to $142.10, its biggest percentage jump ever.

Diversified U.S. manufacturer 3M Co reported a 3.9 percent rise in profit, meeting expectations, on solid growth in sales of its wide array of products, which range from Post-It notes to films used in television screens. The shares slipped 0.2 percent to $99.28.

Corporate earnings have helped drive the recent stock market rally. Thomson Reuters data through early Thursday showed that of the 133 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings, 66.9 percent have exceeded expectations, above the 65 percent average over the past four quarters.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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