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PC does it: HP to keep personal-computer division
Today, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) backed out of its prior plan to spin off the company's $40.7 billion PC division. HP's newest CEO, Meg Whitman, said the move was simply too costly. When she stepped in as CEO in September, Whitman said that she supported the spinout and other recent decisions at the company. The decisions outraged corporate customers and prompted a 20% decline in HP's stock price. The stock's still down 36% for the year, compared with a 3% gain for the Nasdaq Composite index. Read more on this at The Wall Street Journal.

Smartphone smackdown
Samsung Electronics overtook Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) as the world's leading smartphone maker in the last quarter, taking 23.8% of the market. Last quarter, Apple took the lead away from Nokia (NYSE: NOK), which is now in third place for smartphone market share behind both Samsung and Apple. Samsung's climb to the top reflects the company's decision to use Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android software in its devices. Apple's new iPhone 4S, which released earlier this month, could threaten Samsung's early lead. Read more on this at Reuters.     

The battle for Yahoo! rages on
Digital media company Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) is pursuing a potentially tax-free way to sell its 40% stake in the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. The strategy, known as a "cash-rich split-off," could offer Yahoo! a tax savings of about $5 billion. A similar arrangement is being discussed for the company's investment in Yahoo! Japan.

The plans are among a laundry list of deals recently devised by potential buyers, each competing for control of Yahoo!. Private equity firms are exploring potential partnerships with Yahoo! rivals Google and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT). Yahoo!'s board thinks the company (and not a buyout group) should execute the sale of its Asian assets -- this way Yahoo! would profit from the cash-rich split-off. Read more on this at The Wall Street Journal.

So there you have it -- the top financial stories for this afternoon. If you are interested in getting all the news and commentary on these stocks, sign up to My Watchlist here -- it's free!

Fool contributor Tamara Rutter owns shares of Apple. Follow her on Twitter @TamaraRutter for more Foolish news. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Yahoo!, Apple, and Microsoft; creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft; and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.