Microsoft, GDP On Deck

Microsoft’s quarterly earnings, congressional testimony from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and first-quarter GDP could make for an eventful couple of days for investors.

Bernanke will appear before the Joint Economic Committee Thursday morning to deliver his views on the economy. The expectation is that Bernanke will stick with the Fed’s recent statements that interest rates are close to neutral, meaning the Fed’s two-year rate hike campaign may be nearing an end.

After the close on Thursday, Microsoft will release its quarterly results. Analysts expect Microsoft to report fiscal third-quarter earnings of 33 cents a share, up a nickel from the year-ago quarter. Sales are expected to rise 14.7% to $11.04 billion. Analysts aren’t anticipating much in the way of upside surprises from the software giant until long-awaited products like Windows Vista are released next year.

On Friday morning, investors will be treated to the government’s first read on first-quarter GDP. Economists believe the economy grew at a 4.9% rate in the quarter, and they will also be watching for signs of inflation in the report.

Stocks rose Wednesday despite strong durable orders and housing reports that heightened inflation concerns. A Federal Reserve survey found pricing pressures at the wholesale level, but said businesses have been unable to raise end product prices to cover higher raw material costs.

The Nasdaq added 3 to 2333, the S&P 500 gained 3 to 1305, and the Dow rose 71 to 11,354. Volume rose to 2.5 billion shares on the NYSE, but declined to 2.16 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancers led 17-14 on the NYSE, and 15-14 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 56% on the NYSE, and 55% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 198-150 on the NYSE, and 199-44 on the Nasdaq.

Amazon and Corning gained on better than expected results.

Monster , RF Micro , Sanmina , SonicWall , M-Systems , Bell Micro and Tellabs rose on their results.

Ingram Micro , Keane , Micrel , SigmaTel and Parametric fell on their results.

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