Economy Can’t Slow Microsoft

The U.S. economy grew at its slowest pace in four years in the first quarter, but that didn’t keep Microsoft from posting its strongest quarter in years.

Microsoft shares rose 3.5% Friday after the company reported 32% sales growth in its March quarter on the strength of new Vista and Office 2007 releases.

The software giant accomplished that feat despite a 1.3% growth rate in the U.S. economy, according to Commerce Department figures released Friday. It was the fourth straight quarter of sub-3% economic growth. The slower than expected growth — and accompanying inflation pressures — restrained stocks, but they still managed to end the day higher.

Microsoft wasn’t the only earnings gainer on Friday. McAfee , , CommScope , Foundry , Microchip , NetLogic , ON Semi , Sierra Wireless , Synchronoss and Varian all gained on their quarterly report cards.

Broadcom fell on an uncertain outlook, and CNET , Cohu , Genesis Micro , InfoSpace , Microsemi , Openwave , Rackable , SanDisk , Trident and Western Digital led an equally long list of earnings decliners.

The Nasdaq climbed 2 to 2557, the S&P 500 was down a fraction at 1494, and the Dow rose 15 to 13,120. Volume declined to 2.71 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.08 billion on the Nasdaq. Declining issues led by a 18-13 margin on the NYSE, and 18-11 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 62% on the NYSE, and 57% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 210-24 on the NYSE, and 163-68 on the Nasdaq.

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