Battling conflicting indicators, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) slipped 12 points, or less than 0.1%, to close at 15,294 today. Down 120 points at one point in early trading, Wall Street struggled to come to terms with a decline in Chinese factory output. However, when U.S. new home sales in April rose by nearly 30% from a year ago, and blowout Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) earnings were considered, the Dow nearly clawed its way back to even ground.
HP rocketed 17.1% higher today, posting its largest single-day gain since late 2001. Even though sales slipped 10%, earnings beat estimates, as profit margins increased in the company's new business focuses, enterprise, and enterprise services, in particular. Shareholders couldn't ask for much more: At least four analysts raised their price targets on the stock as HP raised its guidance.
Aerospace giant Boeing (NYSE: BA) also benefited from newfound analyst love, adding 1.9%, as at least five investment banks raised their price targets on the stock this week alone. Wall Street cheered news that China gave the thumbs-up to its national airlines to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner; today's clearance is the latest positive for Boeing's Dreamliner, which has been reworked after serious issues with its battery earlier this year.
Even with tech stocks leading the way, largely by virtue of Hewlett-Packard's earnings shocker, shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) still slipped 1.3%. The company's release of the new Xbox One gaming console simply hasn't impressed investors. While the device offers new ways to multitask and interact via voice and motion controls, the price point is still unknown, making it harder to gauge how viable the product actually is.
The largest laggard in the Dow today was Alcoa (NYSE: AA), which lost 1.7% in trading. Materials companies always hate to hear anything even remotely neutral out of China, preferring, instead, projections of double-digit growth in all areas of the economy for centuries to come. With today's data showing industrial output actually slowing, Alcoa shares slumped, in anticipation of weaker demand for aluminum.
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