Microsoft and Kroger Bounce as Both Enter New Chapters

After trading higher all day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) , the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq all nosedived around 3 p.m. EST. While the Dow and S&P 500 found their way back into positive territory today, the Nasdaq wasn't quite so lucky. When the closing bell rang, the Dow was higher for the session by 49 points, or 0.3%, the S&P 500 was up 0.28%, and the Nasdaq was down 0.25%.

These moves came after revised Gross Domestic Product numbers were released earlier this morning that indicated that economic activity in the U.S. for the fourth quarter of 2013 grew at a rate of 2.4%, much lower than the previously announced 3.25% or the 2.5% analysts had predicted. But as my colleague Alex Planes noted earlier today, Wall Street didn't seem to care. Alex does a great job of explaining why -- read it by clicking here.

Within the Dow, one of the biggest winners of the day was Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) , which rose 1.19%. The move comes with two stories attracting the attention of investors: first, comments by John Thompson, Microsoft's current Chairman, that the company's new CEO Satya Nadella needs to focus the company and lead those around him in the right direction. Furthermore, Thompson said that the direction needs to be headed toward making the company and its products more relevant to consumers.

The second piece of news follows up nicely with what Thompson said. The Verge reported earlier today that Microsoft is experimenting with the idea of a free version of Windows 8.1. Giving away the company's software has never been Microsoft's strategy, but this would likely get consumers interested in using the program, and Microsoft's other revenue-generating apps. We saw Google take a similar strategy years ago with its Android operating system, which is now one of the most-used operating systems throughout the world. At this time, giving away Windows 8.1 is just a rumor and, in the short run, there would be a big profit hit from doing such a venture; but it could be a very successful strategy long term. 

Outside the Dow, shares of supermarket chain Kroger (NYSE: KR  ) closed the session higher by 4.48% today. There was little news pertaining to the company today, but during the past few trading sessions, a number of analysts have been mentioning the company. On Wednesday, JPMorgan Chase upgraded the stock from a neutral rating to overweight, and increased its price target from $38 to $46. Then, on Thursday, analysts at Deutsche Bank named Kroger as one of two companies that could acquire struggling grocer Safeway (NYSE: SWY  ) .

Kroger has grown throughout the years though buying out the competition or smaller chains, so this wouldn't be something new; but it would be a very large acquisition. Currently, Safeway is valued at $9 billion, as shares are trading at $37, while Kroger only has a market capitalization of $21 billion. The deal would likely be difficult for Kroger to pull off, especially since the Deutsche Bank analyst believes it would happen at a price somewhere between $45 to $55 per share for Safeway, giving the company a value of around $13.2 billion. While Kroger is clearly the better company of the two and the one I would rather hold long term, in the short term, Safeway may have more upside. 

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