Microsoft Leads the Dow Jones Higher Today on Reports Office is Coming to Apple’s iPad

The Dow Jones Industrial Average  (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  was up 97 points, to 16,344, at 1:30 p.m. EDT after some mixed reports on the U.S. housing market and economy, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin's latest statement on Crimea. The S&P 500  (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  )  was up 12 points to 1,871.

Meanwhile, Microsoft  (NASDAQ: MSFT  )  jumped nearly 4% following reports that the company is working on bringing its Office suite of products to Apple's  (NASDAQ: AAPL  )  iPad. 

Putin said the Crimean region, where a Sunday referendum overwhelmingly backed secession from Ukraine, rightfully belongs in Russia, but that his nation would not seek more of Ukraine itself.

The two U.S. economic releases today were mixed.

Report

Period

Result

Previous

Consumer Price Index

February

0.1%

0.1%

Core CPI

February

0.1%

0.1%

Housing Starts

February

907,000

909,000

Building permits

February

1.02 million

945,000

The story remains the same with inflation -- it is trending well below the Fed's target of 2% to 2.5%. The Federal Open Market Committee, which is meeting today and tomorrow, is expected to taper its asset purchases by another $10 billion a month and change the language it uses regarding when the Federal Reserve will start to raise rates.

The report to pay attention is the Department of Commerce's residential construction reading, which showed that housing starts last month were unchanged from January but that building permits rose 8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.02 million. Building permits are a leading indicator of new housing construction and bode well for the housing market going forward.

Today's Dow leader
Microsoft is said prepared to roll out a version of Office for Apple's iPad at a March 27 event in San Francisco. If true, this could be a nice bump up for Microsoft's earnings as there are an estimated 160 million iPads in use.

Bernstein analyst Mark Moerdler had this to say: "We estimate that if 10 percent of the iPad install base were to subscribe to Office then this could add 15 million subscribers and generate $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion in consumer Office subscription revenue per year." Office has been conspicuously absent from the iPad, causing users to try rival offerings of word processors and spreadsheet software.

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