Microsoft and Verizon Are Pulling the Dow in Opposite Directions Today

Wall Street returned to normal trading today after two weeks of slow volume during the holidays. There's still not a lot of data to digest and earnings season has yet to begin, so it's not surprising to see the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  wobble around breakeven through the day, down 0.06% with 30 minutes left in the trading day.

While the market as a whole may have been slow, Microsoft  (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) and Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ  ) are moving in opposite directions today.

Verizon gets a bump
A deal announced today calls for Verizon to sell spectrum to T-Mobile  (NYSE: TMUS  ) for $2.4 billion in cash and another $950 million worth of T-Mobile spectrum. The deal is a win for both companies, with Verizon selling unused low-band frequencies spectrum in return for cash and AWS and PCS airwaves that will reduce congestion on its network in large cities. Meanwhile, T-Mobile becomes both a stronger competitor and a potential takeover target for Sprint or Sprint majority owner SoftBank.

At the end of the day, Verizon made a profit on spectrum it may have overpaid for in 2008 and gets needed spectrum in the process. That's why the stock is up 0.8% on a day the Dow is down.

Microsoft's CEO search continues
Shares of Microsoft have fallen 2% today after challenges with the company's CEO search were highlighted by The Wall Street Journal. The article (found here) suggested that both current CEO Steve Ballmer and Microsoft founder Bill Gates plan to remain active in the company, with seats on the company's board. That could make it particularly hard for a new CEO to institute change, since the two men have set the company's strategy since its inception.

So far, established CEOs like Ford's Alan Mulally and Nokia's Stephen Elop have been rumored for the job, but they may not want to run a company if their predecessors will be looking over their shoulder.

It looks like the CEO search continues on at Microsoft, which means more time without a clear long-term vision from the top. That's bad for shareholders no matter how you look at it.

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