Microsoft, Activision Blizzard, and OpenTable Surge as Dow Hits Record Highs

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Despite little economic news in the U.S., Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has surged to a record high today. The index is off the session's high as of 11:30 a.m. EST, but it's still up more than 90 points.

The Dow's rise may have been partially spurred on by Europe, where markets were broadly higher after a wave of economic data came in better than expected. In particular, the European services PMI beat expectations, while U.K. industrial production and manufacturing production came in better than anticipated.

Dow component Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) has led the gain, up 3%, while other tech firms, including Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI  ) and OpenTable (UNKNOWN: OPEN.DL  ) , are also standouts for the session.

Analysts think Microsoft can do better
Microsoft shares are outperforming after analysts at Nomura raised the company's price target from $40 to $45. Nomura believes Microsoft can earn $3.80 per share next year by cutting spending, buying back stock, and spinning off divisions -- in particular, Xbox and Bing. Vulcan Capital, the firm that manages the investments of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, made a similar argument last week.

In addition, Nomura expects Microsoft to name Alan Mulally its CEO sometime next month. According to Reuters, he's currently on Microsoft's short list of candidates, along with Nokia's Stephen Elop and several Microsoft employees. Mulally's recent stint at Ford has been successful, and bringing his business acumen to Microsoft could help the company transition into its plan of becoming a "devices and services" businesses.

Activision Blizzard rallies ahead of earnings
Shares of Activision Blizzard have rallied nearly 1% ahead of the company's earnings. The video game publisher will report earnings after the bell, and analysts are looking for a slight profit of about $0.01 per share. Revenue is expected to come in just shy of $590 million.

More important than its actual earnings are its projections for future sales. Activision Blizzard's latest entry in the Call of Duty series, Call of Duty: Ghosts, was released last night, and it has reportedly hit $1 billion in sales already. With two new consoles set to debut in just a couple of weeks, it will be interesting to see what Activision Blizzard has to say about broader trends in the video game industry.

OpenTable posts massive gain after earnings beat
OpenTable investors have enjoyed one of the largest gains on the session as shares of the restaurant reservations website rally more than 13% following a better-than-expected earnings report.

OpenTable's profit rose 28% as its service became more popular with both businesses and consumers. The company said the number of restaurants using its service rose 17%, now up to 31,000, while the number of customers using OpenTable was up 30% to 38.5 million. Crucially, the company seems to be transitioning well to mobile: More than 41% of OpenTable customers booked using a mobile device.

Of course, OpenTable's gain may have been boosted by its high short interest. Nearly one in every five shares of OpenTable has been sold short, as investors may have become leery of the company's sky-high price-to-earnings ratio. As the company proved its critics wrong on Tuesday, short-sellers may have been forced to cover their bad bets, helping OpenTable's shares to rise more than they would have otherwise.

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