Amid Mixed Economic News, Strong Corporate Earnings

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Microsoft's profits surged this week, so did Apple's and AT&T's. Despite stubbornly high unemployment, consumers are buying PCs, along with iPhones and iPads. Companies are buying, too.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

This morning we have a couple snapshots of an economy that still seems to be searching for direction. There are pieces of encouraging news but they're often countered by reports of continued weakness. In a moment, we'll check in with our Planet Money team and get an update on the toxic asset that they invested in a while back.

But first, some big names in technology posted strong earnings this week. They include Microsoft, Apple and AT&T.

NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN: Consumers are buying iPhones, iPods and iPads like crazy, driving Apple's quarterly profit up a stunning 78 percent. AT&T gets a boost from the iPhone as well. Sales of personal computers helped drive Microsoft's profits.

Andrew Bartels of Forrester Research says many consumers view computers and other gadgets as affordable luxuries.

Mr. ANDREW BARTELS (Forrester Research): If you dont have the money to buy a new house or buy a new car, you still feel I can go out and buy a new PC for $500.

KAUFMAN: Corporate spending is also helping Microsoft.

Martin Reynolds, an analyst with the technology research firm Gartner, says for the past couple of years companies haven't invested in new equipment.

Mr. MARTIN REYNOLDS (Gartner Research): There's a consequence that technology has aged out. And one of the tremendous things about technology is every year it just gets better, and if you dont invest in it you tend to fall behind everybody else.

KAUFMAN: They know growing their companies when unemployment is 9.5 percent won't be easy, and they hope technology will help them do it more efficiently and profitably.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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