Today: Apple's earnings and stock changes send company to best Wall Street performance in two years as Cupertino company joins with other tech giants to settle anti-poaching case. Also: Google loses top social exec, Facebook makes another acquisition.
The Lead: Apple jumps after earnings, settles anti-poaching case
After announcing stronger-than-expected earnings and more stock machinations Wednesday afternoon, Apple soared to its highest prices of 2014 on Thursday on Wall Street, as the Cupertino tech giant settled a class-action lawsuit from employees with other big-name Silicon Valley companies.
Apple jumped 8.2 percent to $567.77 Wednesday, its best single-day performance on Wall Street in two years, since a similar post-earnings rebound in 2012. The momentum stemmed from Wednesday's earnings report, which showed off stronger profits and sales than analysts expected while also announcing an extra $30 billion worth of stock repurchases and a 7-for-1 stock split that will likely bring the price of individual Apple shares lower than $100 when executed in July.
"We view upside in iPhone and emerging markets as well as increased capital returns to shareholders a significant positive," Deutsche Bank analyst Sherri Scribner wrote in a note.
The stock split drew special consideration because it could bring Apple's per-share price low enough that the Dow Jones industrial average would consider placing it in the index of blue-chip American stocks. Apple's current per-share price would influence the movement of the index too much, the chairman of the index's committee said when rejiggering the components last year, which included the removal of Hewlett-Packard.
"I'd think Apple is up next" for inclusion in the Dow, Horizon Investment Services chief investment officer Richard Moroney told Bloomberg News. "Really the only barrier keeping Apple out of the Dow was that high price tag. It's the biggest company, it's clearly a quality company with a long record of success and it's the leader in its industry -- all things the keepers of the Dow Jones industrial average look for."
Thursday afternoon, Apple cleared one potential headache off its long legal ledger, teaming with Google, Intel and Adobe to settle an antitrust suit from Silicon Valley workers stemming from an alleged agreement between the companies to not recruit each other's employees.
The roughly 64,000 workers sought as much as $9 billion in remuneration for the scheme, which federal authorities allege was the work of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and other top valley executives. While Thursday's filing did not release the amount Apple and the other companies have agreed to pay, Reuters reported Thursday that the settlement would total $324 million.
"This is an excellent resolution of the case that will benefit class members. We look forward to presenting it to the court and making the terms available," plaintiffs' attorney Kelly Dermody said in a statement.
SV150 market report: Facebook declines after earnings, another acquisition
Tech stocks led the way Thursday on Wall Street, with Apple helping to push the Nasdaq and SV150 indexes to overall gains while the Dow failed to move at all for the first time in 12 years. Other prominent Silicon Valley companies failed to increase Thursday, however, as Facebook declined after earnings and another acquisition and Google fell while losing a top executive.
After gains in after-hours trading following its Wednesday earnings report, which included the announced departure of Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman, Facebook closed Thursday with a 0.8 percent decline at $60.87. While Facebook again produced huge sales gains in advertising, "investors may call into question whether ad revenue can again accelerate in the future," Morgan Stanley analyst Jordan Monahan wrote, also noting, "Facebook indicated they did not expect Instagram or video to contribute meaningfully in 2014." Wishy-washy stock movement did not deter Facebook from continuing its recent run of acquisitions, with the Menlo Park company announcing the purchase of a Finnish company that produced the fitness-tracking mobile application Moves for an undisclosed price. Facebook also revealed plans to offer a service called FB Newswire that will surface newsworthy postings on the social network, which could pressure rival Twitter, which is more known for breaking news; Twitter dropped 2.5 percent to $44.82 Thursday. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a busy man with so much happening at his company, so if you want to meet him, it might be better to check out the wax figure of Zuckerberg at the future San Francisco location of Madame Tussauds.
Google declined 0.6 percent to $534.44 after executive Vic Gundotra, who spearheaded the development of the Mountain View company's Google+ offering, announced on that social network that he is leaving the company. Google also shot down Internet reports that its wearable offering, Google Glass, was permanently available for sale to the general public. Tesla Motors dropped 0.1 percent to $207.86 after the Federal Trade Commission weighed in on the Palo Alto carmaker's side in its state-by-state battle with car dealers, which earlier this year resulted in a ban on the company's direct-sales methods in New Jersey.
In Thursday's earnings report action, SunPower continued to shine, revealing big growth in sales and proceeds. The San Jose solar-panel manufacturer reported net income of $65 million, or 42 cents a share, on revenues of $692.4 million, after suffering a loss in the same quarter last year. SunPower shares moved higher than $33.50 in late trading after closing with a 1.7 percent gain at $32.02; even before any post-earnings gains, SunPower has already advanced by more than 20 percent this week, while announcing a joint deal with Google for residential installations. Pandora Media was not as fortunate: The company announced earnings that showed a year-over-year sales gain of nearly 70 percent, but the Oakland streaming audio company's forecasts for the current quarter and full year disappointed analysts and investors. Pandora stock dipped lower than $27 in after-hours action after ending regular trading with a 0.1 percent advance at $28.20.
Up: Apple, SunPower, Juniper Networks, VMware, Nvidia, Hewlett-Packard, AMD, SanDisk, Applied Materials
Down: Workday, Splunk, Yelp, Netflix, Twitter, LinkedIn, Adobe, Salesforce, Zynga, SolarCity, Facebook, NetApp
The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Up 20.69, or 1.5 percent, to 1,395.75
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 21.37, or 0.52 percent, to 4,148.34
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: No change at 16,501.65
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 3.22, or 0.17 percent, to 1,878.61
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/jowens510.