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

What: Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates (Nasdaq: VSEA), which makes equipment used in manufacturing computer chips, is soaring as much as 10.8% above last night's closing price in intraday trading.

So what: It's earnings season, and Varian put its very best foot forward in last night's fourth-quarter report. Higher tool sales and unexpectedly fat gross margins conspired to push Varian past management guidance with ease.

Now what: Though unexpected this time, Varian's management expects the higher sales and broader margins to stick into the next quarter. That's a generally positive sign of how the giants of the chip industry view the near and midterm future: Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (NYSE: TSM) wouldn't spend money to upgrade their chip factories if they didn't expect overall demand to rise, after all. Varian's customer list is a veritable who's who of the chip sector, making the company a useful weather vane.

Interested in more info on Varian? Add it to your watchlist by clicking here.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. The Fool owns shares of Intel. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.