Strong Earnings Push the Dow Higher

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) moved up 0.5%, or 65 points, on a mixed day as the Nasdaq dipped 0.24% and the S&P 500 rose just 0.12%. For the week, the Dow rose 180 points to close at 13,029, and a trio of strong earnings reports helped it outperform its peer indexes today.

Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) led the move north, posting a 4.55% gain for the day. The software giant beat EPS expectations by $0.02 last night, posting earnings of $0.60 per share on expectations of $0.58, and revenue increased 6%. Anticipation for Windows 8 appears to be building, and many investors see that move bolstering Microsoft's entry into the tablet and smartphone, where it has struggled thus far. Strong sales of its Office suite of products, along with solid growth in its business segment, particularly in services, helped as well.

General Electric (NYS: GE) also moved up more than 1% after beating earnings estimates by a cent this morning on EPS of $0.34, a 3% gain from a year ago. CEO Jeff Immelt also maintained guidance of double-digit growth for 2012. Sales in GE's industrial division, which includes jet engines, medical equipment, and wind turbines, were particularly strong, climbing 11% while profits in its financial wing were flat but would've gone up 27% if the effects of a one-time sale are removed. The conglomerate also reported that first-quarter infrastructure orders set a new record at $23.1 billion, up an adjusted 14% from a year ago.


Finally, McDonald's (NYS: MCD) also moved on earnings news this morning. The home of the Big Mac posted quarterly earnings growth of 5%, meeting analyst expectations of $1.23 per share, and recovered slightly from a dip in March on weaker-than-expected same-store sales. After shares rose more than 2% in early trading, they finished the day with just a 0.7% gain. While management predicted April same-store sales of about 4%, it also stressed the difficulties in today's tough economic climate and expects rising food costs to affect profits. A revamped Burger King could test McDonald's later in the year.

There was one big loser in the Dow today, as Bank of America (NYS: BAC) shares plummeted more than 4.5%. Strangely, the drop came after six analysts raised their price target and one gave it an upgrade following the bank's earnings report Thursday. One analyst, however, Mike Mayo of CLSA, downgraded its shares to a sell. Mayo said that the bank is underperforming and that management lacks the initiative to turn things around, adding that 2013 profits are on track to be less than half of what they were before the recession.

Get in while you still can
Earnings season is still heating up, with Apple and a host of Dow stocks set to report next week. Our expert stock-pickers at the Fool have prepared a free report on "5 Stocks Investors Need to Watch This Season." This video can give you valuable insight into current market trends and explains why these companies are such great investments right now. Get a look it before earnings season passes you by.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorJeremy Bowmanowns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Apple and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Microsoft, and McDonald's and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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