It's Microsoft versus Google again, and a big-time backer for J.C. Penney.
The Dow Industrials rose 24 points yesterday, the Nasdaq gained 20, and the S&P 500 added 6 points – its fifth straight advance.
A federal judge has ruled that Microsoft (MSFT) owes less than half of the royalty payments sought by a unit of Google (GOOG) in a closely watched patent trial. Motorola Mobility had been seeking more than $4 billion a year in payments; the judge awarded it $1.8 billion.
Billionaire investor George Soros has given a big vote of confidence to struggling retailer J.C. Penney (JCP): He's acquired a nearly 8 percent stake – more than 17 million Penney shares. Soros describes it as a passive stake, meaning he's not seeking to buy the company.
Tax-free internet shopping is in jeopardy after the Senate last night passed a procedural measure that is likely to lead to state taxes being placed on all online purchases. EBay (EBAY) has been lobbying against the bill, while Amazon (AMZN), Wal-Mart (WMT) and Best Buy (BBY) have backed it.
Meanwhile, Amazon.com says its quarterly net fell 37 percent from a year ago as it continues to spend heavily on new warehouses and digital content. But sales jumped by 22 percent.
Starbucks's (SBUX) coffee is hot; its stock today, not so much. Profit rose a better-than-expected 26 percent but its forecast for the current quarter was disappointing.
The airline reservation firm Expedia (EXPE) reported a big loss, due to one-time items. But the stock is set to take off on strong revenue growth. Bookings for hotel rooms surged.
Shares of H&R Block (HRB) are set to tumble after the company said it processed few tax returns than expected. Rival Intuit (INTU), maker of Turbo Tax, slid 11 percent yesterday after issuing a similar warning.
And Yahoo (YHOO) Chairman Fred Amoroso is stepping down and will not seek re-election to the company's board. He's the eighth director to leave Yahoo's board in the past 15 months.
–Produced by Drew Trachtenberg
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