When economic news is mixed, quarterly results often make the difference for the stock market during earnings season. For those following the broad economy, today's data didn't give a clear signal. Pending home sales rose 1.5%, but the National Association of Realtors emphasized a sudden lack of inventory as holding back sales activity. This has mixed implications, including the potential for a faster rise in home prices but also an accompanying decline in home turnover and related business that results from sales.
Meanwhile, consumer income and spending both come in below expectations, with gains of just 0.2% suggesting that consumers aren't entirely convinced that the recovery can continue even at its current pace. Still, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) barely paused in its advance, rising 68 points by 11 a.m. EDT and pulling the S&P 500 up to within a couple points of a new all-time record.
Once again, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) was the big winner in the Dow, rising more than 2% and extending its recent gains to 13% in just the past week and a half. Despite ongoing skepticism about the prospects for its Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft is benefiting from investors who see the stock as a value proposition. Hype about the coming new Xbox release could also refocus attention on the more successful gaming console business and raise awareness of the Microsoft ecosystem, which has huge growth potential if the company can get more people to embrace it.
Beyond the Dow, Sina (NASDAQ:SINA) has jumped 13.3% after announcing that Alibaba had bought an 18% stake in Sina's Weibo microblogging business. China's answer to Twitter, Weibo has attracted a lot of attention from tech investors in the emerging market, and with Alibaba also getting options to potentially boost its Weibo stake in the future, Sina is clearly going to be a player in the rapidly evolving Chinese Internet industry.
On the downside, Nam Tai Electronics (NYSE:NTP) has plunged 36% despite reporting sales that doubled from year-ago levels. Even though the company beat expectations, its guidance raised concerns that narrow margins might force Nam Tai to shut down production of LCD modules. The news comes as a reminder that it's important to look forward, rather than backward, in evaluating businesses releasing earnings.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends SINA. The Motley Fool owns shares of 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.