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Today was a bullish day on Wall Street -- 80% of blue chips ended in the black -- and yet the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) added only 10 points, or less than 0.1%, closing at 14,547. The subdued gains were mostly due to the poor performance of just a few companies that really bit the dust. The meager 10-point advance wasn't enough to salvage losses earlier in the week, as the Dow posted its worst week of 2013, slipping 2.1%.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) pleasantly surprised the markets today, adding 3.4% on the heels of a good earnings report. Expectations had been rather low for the tech giant, especially after news broke in recent weeks that PC sales declined to an all-time record in the first quarter. The adoption of Windows 8 wasn't quite as bleak as investors had come to expect. In fact, the Windows division boosted sales 23% from a year ago, pulling in $5.7 billion.
Although there were just a handful of laggards in the index, those laggards sure were steep decliners. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , which didn't share the glory with Microsoft, slipped 3.2% after a private equity buyout of rival PC maker Dell fell through. Reading between the lines, HP shareholders sold off today as it looks like confidence in a turnaround for the PC industry is fading.
The major laggard of the day and, in fact, the reason that the Dow struggled to stay positive despite its overwhelming bullishness was IBM (NYSE: IBM ) . IBM lost 8.3% -- its worst single-day stumble in eight years -- after a quarter where revenues declined 5%. The only silver lining to today's report is that results were hit more by currency headwinds from a weak yen than inherent weakness in the underlying business.
Shares of General Electric (NYSE: GE ) also stumbled and took a 4% hit. The 16% bump in net income just didn't do it for Wall Street, which was bummed by the flat year-over-year revenue growth. The stock is down 7.3% this week, after weak industrial numbers from Philadelphia earlier in the week offered a sign that GE's results may not be the rosiest on record.
For GE, the recent financial crisis struck a blow, but management took advantage of the market's dip to make strategic bets in energy. If you're a GE investor, you need to understand how these bets could drive this company to become the world's infrastructure leader. At the same time, you need to be aware of the threats to GE's portfolio. To help, we're offering comprehensive coverage for investors in a premium report on General Electric, in which our industrials analyst breaks down GE's multiple businesses. You'll find reasons to buy or sell GE today. To get started, click here now.