Fed Minutes Not Enough to Push Dow Higher

Despite a spike following the release of the Federal Reserve minutes this afternoon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) wasn't able to hang on to the gains, ending the day down a hair, off 8 points, or 0.06%. Investors reacted favorably to the Fed's Open Market Committee observations from its June meeting, even as the minutes showed that a number of central bank members favor beginning to taper its monthly bond-buying program starting this year. However, the bankers also acknowledged that more improvements in the job market are needed before the Fed can take away the stimulus program, an encouraging sign for investors who believe the Fed may be pulling the plug too soon on the fragile recovery.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) topped Dow stocks today, gaining 1.8% and hitting a new 52-week high after receiving an upgrade from Citigroup to "buy" all the way from "sell," as analyst Jim Suva endorsed the PC-maker's turnaround strategy, saying it had cut $3 billion in costs through employee layoffs and was moving away from past failed strategies. Ironically, the upgrade came on the same day as tech research firm Gartner reported that worldwide PC shipments drop 11% in the second quarter, the fifth consecutive quarter of declines. In total, 76 million PCs were shipped, down from 85 million a year ago, and Lenovo narrowly beat out HP for the top spot. Facing the inevitable decline of the computer, HP has focused on enterprise and services as a way to drive profit growth.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) also shook off the gloomy PC report to move up 1% today. Today, the software-maker introduced its CityNext initiative, which will help big make cities make smarter choices in areas such as energy and water to be more sustainable. Microsoft also revealed that it would introduce two new updated tablets next year in what it's calling its "biggest innovation year ever." The moves go to show that Microsoft is not resting on its laurels even as the PC market dries up and will leverage its brand and tech knowledge to keep growing profits.

Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) , meanwhile, was down 0.8% after rival T-Mobile announced that it will allow phone upgrades every six months, putting added pressure in industry leaders Verizon and AT&T, which generally don't allow an upgrade until near the end of a two-year contract. With T-Mobile newly independent from former parent Deutsche Telekom, you can expect similar moves from the No. 4 carrier in an attempt to grab market share. A separate report also said that Verizon has committed to buy $23.5 billion worth of Apple's iPhones this year, more than twice what it sold last year, and could owe Apple as $14 billion in purchase agreements if it's unable to hit that mark.

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