IBM's Jump Headlines the Dow's Record-Setting Day

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Stocks are having an up-and-down day after yesterday's unexpected boom, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  managed to climb to a new intraday high earlier today despite the market's sluggishness. But as of 2:30 p.m. EST, the Dow's was down 0.02%, while its 30 member stocks are split pretty evenly between risers and losers.

IBM's (NYSE: IBM  ) having a good day on the index so far, with the stock gaining 0.9%, but Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) hanging low as the Dow's worst performer so far, dropping 1.15%. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

IBM looks for a big splash
IBM's up today after announcing its acquisition of file transfer specialist Aspera. Aspera's technology allows large data files to be moved much quicker than usual; IBM's looking to add that to its own portfolio of business solutions as it looks to rev up what's been a terrible year for this stock. IBM's shares have fallen more than 8% year to date, the worst performer on the Dow Jones since the start of 2013.

That's not all IBM has moved in on this week, however. The company announced yesterday that it's pushing into mainland China with a cloud service, teaming up with a Chinese company in a partnership to capture this growing market. IBM's news came on the heels of a similar push by Amazon.com to launch a Web service in mainland China. Given the Chinese market's potential and its growing middle class, it's an intriguing move for Big Blue.

Will these moves help IBM turn things around in the waning days of 2013 and into 2014? It'll have to do better than it has this year: IBM's sales have slumped behind falling revenue in its largest segments, as three of its top four businesses by sales saw revenue decline year over year through the first nine months of 2013. IBM's systems and technology branch has taken a particularly large hit, with the unit's sales slipping 15% year over year and losing more than 2 percentage points in its gross margin.

Microsoft's falling down on the other side of the Dow as speculation continues to swirl around the company's future -- in particular, its successor for departing CEO Steve Ballmer. While whoever leads Microsoft next will have big challenges ahead, the company's making moves now to impact tomorrow. Microsoft's increased its number of U.S. retail stores to 83 for the end of 2013 and plans to launch more locations next year.

Microsoft's retail operations put it squarely in competition against rival Apple as the Windows maker looks to boost its hardware and consumer tech profile. Between the company's push into the tablet market this year and its move toward making mobile phones, increased awareness among retail customers should be a positive point for the company's next CEO -- and its investors -- in coming years.

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