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Obviously, this week was far from normal for the financial markets. With Hurricane Sandy having imposed a two-day stoppage to trading, investors had a lot of catching up to do when the markets reopened on Wednesday. Yet despite some extreme volatility that included two 1% moves for the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) in the week's three sessions, the net result was just the slightest of changes, as the Dow declined 14 points for the week. The S&P 500 managed to post a modest gain of less than 0.2% while the Nasdaq Composite inched down a similar amount.
Looking at the biggest Dow movers for the week, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) topped all 16 advancing issues with an 8% gain. The company narrowly missed another public-relations fiasco when it initially chose to offer fee waivers for victims of Hurricane Sandy only on request. But by the end of the week, the bank saw the light and issued automatic fee waivers for overdrafts and late payments, along with some refreshments for its Manhattan customers.
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) also performed well, jumping more than 4.5% for the week in a nice bounce from recent weakness stemming from worries about overall PC demand. The software giant announced on Tuesday a respectable showing for its new Windows 8 operating system, with 4 million upgrades sold. With the OS release now behind it, Microsoft can now focus on its latest installment of its Office software franchise due out next year.
Declining stocks were led by Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) , both of which fell between 3% and 3.5%. For Pfizer, weakness related to the much-anticipated loss of patent protection for blockbuster drug Lipitor led to a big plunge in both net income and revenue. The company hopes to replace Lipitor's revenues with a new blockbuster soon, but it'll take time for its pipeline to play itself out. Meanwhile, for Wal-Mart, growing evidence that this year's holiday season will be more competitive than ever weighed on the stock. Moreover, doubts about whether demand for its new same-day delivery service will actually drive increased traffic pose another threat for the retail giant.
On the road to recovery
Of all these stocks, none has a tougher road to walk than Microsoft. The past decade has been hard for Microsoft investors, but Windows 8 could finally make Microsoft a buy. Find out more in our premium report on the stock, in which our analyst explains that while Microsoft's opportunity is huge, the challenges are many. He's also providing regular updates as key events occur, so make sure to claim a copy of this report now by clicking here.