After yesterday's midday sell-off proved no afternoon delight for investors, today's rebound looks to avoid the same fate. On a day with little macro news, all eyes turn to earnings, and several big-name businesses turned in strong results.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at how the major indexes are faring today and drill down on a few stocks leading today's action.

Index

Gain / Loss

Gain / Loss %

Intraday Value

Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) 101.11 0.78% 13,065.21
Nasdaq 19.46 0.65% 3,027.02
S&P 500 8.35 0.61% 1,385.27

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

The Dow has a commanding lead, as all but four of its components are gaining ground. Notably, General Electric (NYSE: GE) and McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) are propelling the index higher following strong earnings releases this morning sending shares are up 1.4% and 2.2%, respectively. General Electric saw revenue decline 8% to $35.2 billion, but that was still $500 million more than analysts expected and helped lead to an earnings beat of a penny a share. Organic growth was really strong and GE's energy and rail units were standouts, a good sign for economic recovery. But in these still tough times, McDonald's strength comes from its value menu as the bottom line grew 7%. International sales grew slightly faster, but an impressive 9% same-store sales growth domestically helped drive gains in the face of rising costs.

But neither approached Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) report from last night, as the tech giant's sensational quarter rocketed shares up 5.5%, easily making it the Dow's top performer. Mr. Softy surprised Wall Street with a 6% increase on the top line, resulting in $0.60 per share in earnings, $0.03 ahead of expectations, but off a penny from last year. Windows 8 will be a significant event for the company as it will not only kick off a huge round of PC upgrades, but its tablet friendliness could open up a new mobile revenue stream. Microsoft is sitting near a 52-week high, but with tablet-friendly Windows 8 around the corner and a renewed push into smartphones with Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Microsoft has potential growth drivers not seen in years.

The best approach
As you can see, earnings undoubtedly move the market, but to play them right you've got to know what to look for. That's why our analysts researched the 5 Stocks Investors Need to Watch This Earnings Season. You can learn more about these stocks by clicking here. Enjoy, and fool on!

David Williamson owns shares of General Electric, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, McDonald's, and Nokia. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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