Microsoft Rises Ahead of Intel's Earnings Release While Apple Looks More Attractive

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.

A report from the Federal Reserve late in the trading day helped push the major indexes higher again today. When the closing bell rang, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) was up 108 points, or 0.66%, while the S&P 500 closed up 0.52% and the Nasdaq increased 0.76% during the day.

The Federal Reserve's Beige Book indicated that nine of the 12 Fed regions within the U.S. showed moderate growth, up from an improvement in seven regions in October and November. Despite last Friday's disappointing jobs report, it appears the economy as a whole is improving, and that's a sign to investors that sales and earnings growth should also continue.  

Despite concerns from Citigroup that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) will stumble if the next CEO is an internal candidate, shares of the software company rose 2.74% higher today. The stock has been on quite the roller-coaster ride lately, with the search for a new CEO pulling shares higher and lower based on rumors and speculation, but tomorrow investors should get a glimpse of how the company did in the fourth quarter of 2013 when its partner in the computer world, Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) , releases its earnings results. The report should give investors a feel for how many PCs were sold during the quarter, which is crucial for Microsoft since Windows is still such a huge driver of the company's revenue and earnings. Shares of Intel rose 0.6% today in anticipation of tomorrow's release.  

Outside the Dow, shares of Microsoft's most formidable competitor in the hardware business, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) , jumped 20.1% today. The company will start selling its iPhones through China's largest wireless service provider, China Mobile, on Friday, and estimates call for sales of between 20 million and 60 million new iPhones. While it may take years to hit the high end of those estimates, iPhones will now be available to such a huge population and customer base that Apple is practically guaranteed to sell more phones going forward.  

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