Stocks opened mixed Friday. Tech stocks shot out of the gate after Microsoft and Amazon blew past earnings expectations.
The Dow bobbed in and out of negative territory. The tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped 1 percent as Microsoft gained 10 percent and Amazon soared 20 percent.
In the morning's economic news, existing-home sales jumped 9.4 percentto their highest level in over two years in September. Economists had expected a more modest rise.
A day after the rollout of its new Windows 7 operating system, Microsoft said it earned 40 cents per share in the previous quarter, well ahead of analyst expectations of 32 cents.
A handful of companies reporting after the bell Thursday blew away analyst estimates. Amazon.com led the parade.
American Express also exceeded expectations as did competitor Capital One Financial .
Diversfied manufacturer Honeywell reported before the bell, beating estimates even though profit fell 15 percent to 80 cents per share.
Whirlpool, Schlumberger and Ingersoll-Rand also reported better-than-expected earnings.
Wall Street also was watching a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who called on Congress to act quickly on its overhaul of the financial regulatory systemand outlined some of his own ideas.
Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn will also speak at that conference, with his remarks coming at 11:30 am.
Friday's key economic report comes at 10 am, when the National Association of Realtors puts out its September report on existing home sales. Economists are looking for an increase of 5.9 percent to an annual rate of 5.4 million units, following a 2.7 percent drop in August.
News items of interest: Chrysler Financial will liquidate and go out of business within two years, following the bankruptcies and restructurings of both General Motors and Chrysler.
The European Union has approvedMerck's acquisition of Schering-Plough . Time Warner's magazine division Time Inc. is reportedly planning another round of job cuts.
Mining stocks could be in focus as well after Credit Suisse upgraded the group to "benchmark" due to expected growth from China as well as high global liquidity.
The UK economy contracted for the sixth consecutive quarter during the third quarter, making the current recession the longest on record.
- Peter Schacknow contributed to this report.
Still to Come:
FRIDAY: Existing-home sales; Fed's Kohn speaks; Madoff car goes on auction
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