Shares in tech heavyweights Apple and Facebook held hefty after-hours gains on Thursday as their results handily outpaced Wall Street expectations, though Asian markets managed only a muted cheer on the news. Seoul shares added 0.2 percent as Samsung Electronics climbed 1.7 percent, but Japan's Nikkei struggled to make any headway at all. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1 percent. The outlook for the U.S. market was brighter with Nasdaq futures up 1.1 percent and the S&P 500 E-mini up 0.3 percent.
Apple Inc has approved another $30 billion in share buybacks till the end of 2015 and authorized a rarely seen seven-for-one stock split, addressing calls to share more of its cash hoard while broadening the stock's appeal to individual investors. Activist investor Carl Icahn, who had famously called on the iPhone maker to boost its buyback program, tweeted his approval of the move on Wednesday. On Wednesday, Apple reported sales of 43.7 million iPhones in the quarter ended March, far outpacing the roughly 38 million that Wall Street had predicted. But whether Apple can again produce a revolutionary new product remains the central question in investors' and Silicon Valley executives' minds.
Warren Buffett, chairman of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A), said on Wednesday that safety is a major priority for the rail industry, after a recent spate of accidents raised concerns about how to transport oil safely. He added that the delay in the construction of the Keystone pipeline was unlikely to prompt additional purchases of tank cars at Berkshire railroad unit BNSF. Buffett also said, in an interview with CNBC the same day, that he thinks Coca-Cola's (KO) equity compensation plan was excessive, but that Berkshire Hathaway abstained in a shareholders vote. Earlier on Wednesday, Coca-Cola said 83 percent of shareholders approved the plan.