Earnings season is a tough time for investors, as the market seems to get whipsawed back and forth depending on particular results on any given day. With no shortage of both positive and negative earnings coming out last night and this morning, the stock market seemed to take its tone from the weaker-than-expected durable goods report early this morning, which reaffirmed worries that many investors already have about just how healthy the economy is.

By the close, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) finished near their lows of the day, down 43 points, although the broader market was close to unchanged.

Several Dow stocks, however, posted sharp gains. Leading the way was Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), which climbed nearly 4%. Today's news that the company will have an event on May 21 presenting its new version of the Xbox added to the recent excitement over the stock, which has soared more than 10% in less than a week. As investors have gotten used to the idea that Microsoft can succeed even without strong showings from Windows 8 and its mobile devices, they're seeing the value in the stock's current low valuation.

Alcoa (NYSE:AA) also managed to rise sharply, with gains of more than 3.5% on a good day for metals companies generally. After having gotten beaten down so far on questionable prospects for the global economy, Alcoa stands to gain from demand in the automotive industry, and solid results from Ford (NYSE:F) earlier today are just the latest sign that automakers have a lot of pent-up demand to meet. As long as the bottom doesn't fall out of the economic growth in China and other high-growth areas, Alcoa may finally be starting to hit bottom.

Finally, Boeing (NYSE:BA) rose more than 3% as it said in its quarterly report that the aerospace giant plans to start delivering new 787 Dreamliner aircraft beginning early next month. The company hopes that it will still be able to meet its production targets for the aircraft despite the long grounding for the Dreamliner. Profits also came in above expectations, reassuring investors that the Dreamliner issues are merely short term in nature.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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 has a disclosure policy.