Updated from 8:40 a.m. EDT

(At 4:17 p.m. EDT)

After Wednesday's Close

Apple, Apple, Apple. All eyes are on Apple's ( AAPL) quarterly earnings, which just crossed the wires. In typical fashion, Apple blew away estimates for the reporting quarter and appeared conservative in its guidance for the next quarter.

The iPod, iPhone and Mac computer maker reported fiscal second-quarter earnings of $1.33 a share on revenue of $8.16 billion, topping not only the consensus estimate of $1.09 a share on revenue of $7.95 billion, but its own previous guidance for earnings between 90 cents and $1 a share on revenue between $7.6 billion and $7.8 billion.

Looking ahead to its fiscal third quarter, Apple said it expects earnings in a range of 95 cents to $1 a share compared to estimates for a profit of $1.12 a share. Apple expects third-quarter revenue of $7.7 billion to $7.9 billion, compared to the Thomson Reuters average estimate of $8.3 billion.

Of course, Apple wasn't the only tech giant out with earnings after the closing bell. eBay ( EBAY) beat earnings and revenue estimates for the first quarter and provided second-quarter guidance that was in line with the Thomson Reuters average estimates.

Qualcomm ( QCOM), meanwhile, postponed its earnings release and call until April 27 due to advanced settlement discussions with Broadcom ( BRCM)regarding a global settlement of disputes between the two companies.

Thursday's Scehedule

The earnings lineup for Thursday is long and represents a wide swath of industries. ConocoPhillips ( COP), EMC ( EMC), Marriott ( MAR), Nucor ( NUE), Phillip Morris ( PM), UPS ( UPS) and Union Pacific ( UNP), among many others, are set to report early Thursday.

Economic data will also be in focus after a lull to start the week. Thursday will bring the weekly jobless claims number, which will be closely watched after last week's jobless claims number came in better than expected at 610,000. However, continued claims jumped to a record 6.02 million last week, no doubt a concern for those looking for a bottom in economic reports.

Perhaps more importantly, the March report on durable goods orders will be released at 8:30 a.m. EDT Thursday morning. After a strong 5.1% increase in February, economists expect durable goods orders to fall by 1.5% in March. Thursday will see the release of the March read on existing home sales, which are expected to be slightly weaker than the 472 million in February.

(At 7:47 a.m. EDT)

Busy Day Ahead

It would be easy to think that today was a slow news day after watching CNBC's scrolling ticker. When I woke up this morning and turned on the TV, I was greeted by the headline " Kohl's ( KSS) To Launch Exclusive Fashion Line by MTV 'The Hills' Star Lauren Conrad." It's hard to believe that CNBC considers that newsworthy today.

It's also hard to believe the move by Kohl's is not a sign of the apocalypse, but that's another story. Seriously. Have you ever watched "The Hills"? Jeez.

Regardless, there are so many other arguably important things to be watching this morning, between the torrent of earnings reports and government headlines. Let's take the latter first.

After Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's remarks Tuesday that the "vast majority" of the top U.S. banks have more than enough capital, the stock market turned on a dime and shot higher. At 9 a.m. EDT, Geithner will speak at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. on the global recession, and his comments will be closely watched again.

In related news, The Wall Street Journal reported that regulators will begin briefing banks Friday about how they fared in " stress tests," giving lenders an opportunity to debate the findings before they're made public a week later on May 4.

Elsewhere, Bloomberg reported that Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. head Sheila Bair introduced the idea of limiting the size of banks in order to prevent financial institutions from becoming "too big to fail," according to House Democrats that had a closed-door meeting with her on Tuesday.

Earnings Roundup

Around this time of the earnings reporting season, when it rains, it pours. Before Tuesday's open, nearly 50 companies were out with earnings reports, including several components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Among them, AT&T ( T) reported a profit of $3.13 billion, or 53 cents a share, including pension and other onetime costs equaling 5 cents a share. Analysts were looking for 48 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Revenue was lighter than expected, even as AT&T said Apple ( AAPL) iPhone 3G activations totaled more than 1.6 million. AT&T shares were up 3.2% in premarket trading.

Speaking of Apple, the company is set to report quarterly earnings after the close of trading Wednesday, along with eBay ( EBAY) and Qualcomm ( QCOM).

Turning back to Dow components reporting before the bell, McDonald's ( MCD) said first-quarter profit rose to $979.5 million, or 87 cents a share, up 4% from a year ago to come in ahead of estimates. However, in what seems to be the trend, it too fell short of revenue targets with quarterly sales of $5.08 billion. Still, McDonald's was tacking on 0.4%.

Boeing ( BA) reported a profit of 86 cents a share for the first quarter on revenue of $16.3 billion, although both fell short of the average Thomson Reuters estimate. In addition, Boeing lowered its full-year guidance to a range of $4.70 to $5.00 a share, although analysts are looking for a full-year profit of $4.57 a share. The stock was up 3% in early trading.

In non-Dow earnings news, Morgan Stanley ( MS) really disappointed with its first-quarter earnings report, coming up well short of earnings and revenue targets with a loss of 57 cents a share on revenue of $3.07 billion. Morgan also said it would cut its dividend to 5 cents a share from 27 cents. Shares were sliding more than 8% in the premarket session.

Wells Fargo ( WFC), meanwhile, said it earned $2.38 billion, or 56 cents a share, in the first quarter, in line with the company's forecast earlier this month. Results were better than Wall Street was anticipating, although Wells Fargo shares were down about 0.8% in the premarket session.

Of course, there are several other companies with earnings reports to watch, but I have limited space and can't recap them all. But it may be worth watching Altria ( MO), Continental Air ( CAL), Freeport-McMoRan ( FCX), and WellPoint ( WLP).

Other News to Watch

Aside from earnings, investors should keep an eye on General Electric's ( GE) annual shareholder meeting, which is set to convene in Orlando, Florida at 10 a.m. EDT. It's hard to imagine we'll see the same fireworks on display at Citigroup's ( C) meeting today, but it still may be worth watching.

Elsewhere, American International Group ( AIG) said late Tuesday that it is moving to separate its property and casualty business. The insurer said it is transferring AIU Holdings to special purpose vehicle in preparation for the potential sale of part of the business.

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