Will HP's Recent Gains Last?

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) shares are soaring today. The stock jumped more than 10% overnight thanks to a hopeful first-quarter report. The move added 13 points to the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) , where HP is a time-honored staple.

The company posted $28.4 billion in sales and $0.82 of adjusted earnings per share, comfortably ahead of analyst targets of $27.8 billion and $0.71, respectively. Earnings guidance for the coming quarter and year also surpassed analyst estimates.

CEO Meg Whitman said her turnaround plans are starting to show results: "While there's still a lot of work to do to generate the kind of growth we want to see, our turnaround is starting to gain traction as a result of the actions we took in 2012 to lay the foundation for HP's future."

It's a wee bit early to pop champagne corks over HP's return to health, though. Sales declined year over year in five out of six reportable business segments, with the lone gainer a 1% uptick in -- no kidding -- financial services. That's hardly a testament to market-beating technology sales. Even Whitman agrees that there's "a lot of work" left to do.

In a longer perspective, HP shares have bounced off a deep bottom but still lost 35% of their value over the last year. That's enough to slash 69 points off the Dow, or roughly half the difference between today's levels and the index's all-time highs.

And I'm not so sure HP's recent gains will last. Whitman is betting the farm on HP as a single monolithic business, despite loud calls to break apart consumer and enterprise operations. "I feel quite strongly that we are better and stronger together," she told analysts on last night's earnings call.

I'm not convinced that she'll reap any synergies from the increasingly forced marriage of consumer and business products, and the effort to make it happen may doom HP to mediocrity in every segment. Wouldn't it make more sense to split the enormous beast apart so that each component can focus on what it does best?

Good luck with your audacious but unrealistic plans to dominate every corner of the IT industry, Ms. Whitman. You're going to need it. My bearish CAPScall on HP is hurting my CAPS score today, but this report didn't show me any reason to turn that frown upside down.

The massive wave of mobile computing has done much to unseat the major players in the PC market, including venerable technology names like Hewlett-Packard. However, HP's rapidly shifting its strategy under the new leadership of CEO Meg Whitman. But does this make HP one of the least-appreciated turnaround stories on the market, or is this a minor detour on its road to irrelevance? The Motley Fool's technology analyst details exactly what investors need to know about HP in our new premium research report. Just click here now to get your copy today.


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