The two strongest performers on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) today come from the tech sector. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) shrugged off the morning's disappointing jobs report to both add about 1% to their share prices. The Dow itself had slumped more than 0.2% just before 2 p.m. EST, and the third-strongest gainer, Coca-Cola, delivered only a 0.7% jump.
This time, there's a perfectly reasonable catalyst behind Intel's and Microsoft's Dow-beating performances. Independent market researchers IDC and Gartner just released their estimates of worldwide personal computer shipments in the holiday quarter, and they weren't as bad as investors had feared.
Gartner saw about 82.6 million PC systems sold in the fourth quarter of 2013, while IDC stopped at 82.2 million. The differences come from each service estimating some numbers in cases where the system builders' fourth-quarter reports haven't hit the newswires yet.
That said, both firms agree that the global PC market shrank no more than 7% year over year. Gartner said that some markets, including the crucial U.S. reports, may have bottomed out by now. Tablets keep stealing market share in emerging markets, but American consumers and corporations might have now reached their ideal tablet-to-PC balance.
IDC and Gartner also agreed that Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) is losing market share in America to hungrier vendors like Lenovo and the privatized Dell. This should come as no surprise, given HP's refocus on software and services under CEO Meg Whitman, but HP shares still tumbled 0.7% on the market reports. I'm not sure that's entirely fair, but then HP investors have plenty of reason to be nervous these days. Turnarounds are always tricky, and HP's is thornier than most.
This qualifies as relatively good news for the PC industry as a whole, as the fourth-quarter declines were smaller than the full-year percentage drops. The streak of seven consecutive quarters with negative growth may be coming to a close, leaving the PC market stable enough to support Intel and Microsoft at current share prices.
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