Today: Wall Street cheers earnings from Zynga, Amazon and Microsoft after sending tech stocks higher in the regular session.

The Lead: Tech companies' earnings cue stock gains in late trading

Zynga, Amazon and Microsoft didn't do much different from recent patterns suggested in the third quarter, but the companies' abilities to boost their revenues led to big gains Thursday in late trading on Wall Street.

Zynga beat analysts' forecasts by announcing a narrow loss of just $68,000 on revenues of $203 million, though the social gaming company continued to shed users: Daily active players of the San Francisco company's games fell from 60 million to 30 million year-over-year. The company expects its performance in the current quarter to be worse, forecasting net losses of $21 million to $31 million and revenues of $175 million to $185 million.

Zynga CEO Don Mattrick, who replaced founder Mark Pincus at the helm of the social-gaming pioneer at the beginning of the third quarter, continued to reshape the company Thursday, announcing the hiring of former Electronic Arts (ERTS) colleague Clive Downie as chief operating officer.

"We are rewiring our organization for success by taking a longer term view on everything we do, which will help us to create value for our customers, our shareholders and our employees over the next decade," Mattrick said in Thursday's conference call.

Investors seemed to focus on Mattrick's overhaul of the executive suite and the company's ability to post lower losses and higher revenues than expected, pushing shares higher in after-hours trading. After closing with a 0.3 percent drop at $3.54, Zynga shares shot up more than 12 percent to around $4 in late trading, at times topping the company's 52-week high of $4.03.

North of Silicon Valley, Washington's two tech giants also exceeded analysts' projections despite the continuation of worrisome trends.

Amazon continued to lose money despite gargantuan revenues, reporting a net loss of $41 million, or 9 cents a share, on revenues of $17.09 billion. While Amazon continued to generate huge sales in the quarter, it also continued to spend heavily as it builds for the future, including $1.4 billion in the past year toward a gigantic new campus.

"There is no other company in the world that has such an awful history of profitability, but continues to be rewarded for it so handsomely," Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru told Bloomberg News.

Investors continued to reward Amazon on Thursday: After gaining 1.6 percent to $332.31, the stock jumped to record levels of more than $360 a share in late trading.

Microsoft continued to see lower revenue totals from its legacy business of software licensing for personal computers, but the company's other efforts paid off. The maker of Windows easily beat analysts' forecast for profits and revenues, announcing earnings of $5.24 billion, or 62 cents a share, on revenues of $18.5 billion, after announcing an organizational shake-up in July. The company's enterprise-focused commercial licensing accounting for more than half its revenues, $9.6 billion, a gain of 7 percent, while licensing revenue from consumer products -- namely Windows and Windows Phone -- declined 7 percent to $4.34 billion.

"Beating on revenue and earnings handily will boost confidence that the reorganization is pivoting them in the right direction," HighMark Capital portfolio manager Todd Lowenstein predicted to Reuters.

Investors did reward Microsoft's stock, pushing shares higher than $35 after they closed with a 0.1 percent decline at $33.72.

SV150 market report: Apple and Tesla boost tech stocks, Symantec weighs

Wall Street gained Thursday as Apple (AAPL) moved higher yet again while dealing with more agitation by investor Carl Icahn, and Tesla Motors (TSLA) bounced back from recent weakness after poaching an executive from Apple.

Activist investor Icahn on Thursday released a letter he sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook in which he says its "difficult to imagine why" Apple would not make the "unprecedented" move to buy back $150 billion of its own stock, more than twice as much as Apple now plans to purchase. The more publicly available stock Apple purchases, the less available on the public markets, which Icahn hopes would drive demand for, and the price of, Apple shares up from when he began purchasing $2 billion worth last summer. As is typical when Icahn makes a fuss over a stock he owns, the price went up Thursday, with shares gaining 1.3 percent to $531.91.

Tesla scored an executive from Apple on Thursday, which may have been the move it needed to reverse a recent plunge in its stock price. After two straight days of declines following the announcement of a U.S. investigation into a recent fire in a Model S, Tesla announced the hire of a hardware executive from Apple to lead its automobile development program, and the company's stock gained 5.3 percent to $173.15. The executive, Doug Field, has a history in the car business after starting out at Ford, and worked at Segway for many years as well.

Other Silicon Valley stocks to gain Thursday included Facebook, which moved 1.1 percent higher to $52.44 while giving more information about the advertisements that will soon start being placed in Instagram feeds and discovering users' thoughts about the sharing of news on its platform. Gilead Sciences (GILD) hit more new all-time highs a day after the Food and Drug Administration gave a positive review to its hepatitis C drug, and San Carlos-based Natus Medical shot up 27.8 percent to $19.31 after reporting record quarterly earnings Wednesday.

Symantec was not as fortunate after its earnings report showed declining revenues, as investors forced the Mountain View security software company's share price down 12.7 percent to $21.49 Thursday. Juniper Networks continued to struggle after its recent earnings report, dropping 2.4 percent to $1859, and Google (GOOG) fell 0.6 percent to $1.025.55 amid reports that the company will launch a YouTube subscription music-streaming service.

Up: Tesla, SolarCity, Yelp, Workday, AMD, Applied Materials, Adobe (ADBE), Salesforce, Sandisk, VMware, Apple, Gilead, eBay (EBAY), Oracle (ORCL), Facebook, LinkedIn, Intuit

Down: Symantec, Juniper, Nvidia, Google, SunPower (SPWRA), Zynga, Yahoo

The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Up 7.82, or 0.56 percent, to 1,407.52

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 21.89, or 0.56 percent, to 3,928.96

The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 95.88, or 0.62 percent, to 15,509.21

And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 5.69, or 0.33 percent, to 1,752.07

Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/jowens510.