Wall Street was eager to focus on the macro issues today, as a slowdown in real estate activity eased fears that the Federal Reserve would start tapering its asset purchases anytime soon. Purchases of already-owned houses fell 1.2% in June from May, clocking in at a 5.08 million annual rate. Weekend elections in Japan also gave more congressional power to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, which boosts the likelihood that Abe's easy money policies will continue. By day's end, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) was up 1.8 points, or less than 0.1%, to close at 15,545.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) shares led the gains, adding 1.9%, to recoup some of the steep losses its shares suffered Friday. That was the stock's worst single day of trading since 2009, when shares plummeted 11.4% after quarterly results that threw the success of the company's Windows division into doubt. With the PC industry quickly declining, widespread complaints about the design of Windows 8, and adoption of the software being heavily driven by defense agencies rather than the private sector, you can understand the concerns there.
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) tacked on 1.5% Monday. Like Microsoft, this PC maker also had a tough go of it Friday, as shares stumbled 4.5% on the heels of Microsoft's poor performance. If you're an HP investor, then you're well aware that global PC shipments have fallen for five consecutive quarters. But combine that with the fact that HP just lost the No. 1 market share position to Lenovo, and you'd better be crossing your fingers that the new focus on IT and enterprise services works out.
On the losing side of the mix, shares of Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) slumped 1.2% Monday. The chipmaker announced a new strategy in a familiar market: the processors used in servers. The company, once frequently criticized for late entry into the mobile-chip market, recently launched a mobile chip called Atom, and today it announced that it's taking aim at a low-power, multifunctional chip for the data center.
Leading all Dow decliners, however, were McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) shares, which slumped 2.7% after a quarterly earnings miss and the forewarnings of future headwinds in the business moving forward. The fast food giant's CEO even made the concession that the company no longer had "as much pricing power" because of stiff price competition and customers who are willing to eat somewhere else if it saves them a few cents. The restaurateur lamented global economic struggles and the high price of marketing new, healthier options as it warned investors of the challenging fiscal year ahead.
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