The Nasdaq climbed on Wednesday following Apple's strong earnings, while gains in the Dow industrials and S&P 500 were curbed as top banks' disappointing results sparked renewed concerns about the financial sector's health.

Tech stocks advanced a day after Apple reported quarterly profits that beat forecasts after the closing bell. Robust sales of Mac computers and iPhones and higher-than-expected gross margins helped Apple's results. Its stock shot up 3.7 percent to $157.14 and gave the biggest lift to the Nasdaq.

Apple specifically is lifting the Nasdaq right now; there are a lot of eyes on it, said Tom Lydon, president of Global Investment Trends, an investment advisory firm in Newport Beach, California. Not only is it a favorite of consumers, but it's become a tech bellwether.

Banks were the S&P 500's worst-performing sector, hit by a third consecutive quarterly loss at Morgan Stanley , along with rising credit losses at Wells Fargo & Co and a 43 percent drop in profits at Bank of New York Mellon .

Wells Fargo's stock lost 2.9 percent to $24.62 and Bank of New York Mellon shed 6.3 percent to $27.27. Morgan Stanley's shares slipped 0.2 percent to $27.50.

Banking and especially investment banking, has been challenged, Lydon said. We're still in the healing phase and right now, the best thing you can say is that there's less bad news.

Lydon added that in order for the financial sector to regain its strength, the market would need to see increased lending as well as improvement in the commercial real estate market.

Investors are looking ahead to quarterly results from eBay and Microsoft for more news on the tech sector after the strong showing from Apple and other tech bellwethers, such as Intel. After Wednesday's closing bell, results are due from eBay; Microsoft reports on Thursday.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 12.40 points, or 0.14 percent, to 8,928.34. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 3.65 points, or 0.38 percent, to 958.23. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> rose 13.88 points, or 0.72 percent, to 1,930.08.

Pfizer
, the world's largest drugmaker, ranked as the Dow's biggest percentage gainer and led the Dow industrials higher after the company reported an adjusted second-quarter profit that topped consensus and raised its full-year profit outlook. Pfizer's stock shot up 2.4 percent to $16.08.

Fellow Dow component Boeing Co rose 0.5 percent to $43.23 after the company posted second-quarter earnings that beat expectations, though investors were concerned that the aircraft manufacturer didn't say when its 787 Dreamliner would take flight.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated in testimony to the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday that the U.S. economic outlook is improving, but that supportive policies would be necessary for awhile to prevent rising joblessness from sapping the recovery.

(Editing by Jan Paschal)