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What: Shares of auction and real estate company Sotheby's (NYSE:BID) jumped 18% in the month of July, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, after reporting some positive operating results and getting a new investor.

So what: Sotheby's won't report second-quarter earnings until Aug. 8, but we got a small look into how the company is performing in Asia in mid-July, when management said auction sales in Asia jumped 22% to $461.5 million. If this is an indication of where overall operating trends are headed, we could see a great second quarter. 

Chinese firm Taikang Life Insurance Co. also revealed that it has taken a 13.52% stake in Sotheby's. This means that activists now own about 43% of Sotheby's shares and growing. It's not clear how they plan to unlock value, but they're betting big on the company. 

Now what: I would take more from the strong operating conditions in Asia than the activist shareholder stakes. If operations improve, it will help the company's stock long-term, something activists can't necessarily do on their own. Investors should watch earnings and management comments next week for an indication of where the company is headed, but with operations going in the right direction and big investors betting heavily on the stock, it could be a great year for Sotheby's.

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