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Why the Dow's Tech Stocks Met the Blue Screen of Death

By Dan Carroll - Apr 11, 2013 at 2:34PM

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Markets rise again, but falling PC sales send Microsoft and HP crashing into the red.

Up the markets go to a new record high this Thursday in a trend we've become used to. Bullish investors may have earlier predicted that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.18%) could climb to the 15,000 mark by the end of the year, but now it could hit that by the end of the week, given a stellar session tomorrow. As of 2:25 p.m. EDT, the blue-chip index has picked up 52 points, or 0.35%, despite a devastating report on PC sales that has sent shockwaves through the tech sector. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

Is the PC down for the count?
It's no secret that the PC's rein atop the consumer market has been dismantled by the rise of mobile, but today's IDC report on last quarter's PC sales showed the worst decline in recorded history. IDC, a research firm that has tracked sales since 1994, reported that PC shipments fell 14% during the quarter -- far more than the 7.7% the firm had predicted. The number of PCs shipped was the lowest since mid-2009, and the dismal quarter marked the fourth straight quarter of falling year-over-year PC shipments.

Nothing's working for companies tied to this withering market. Despite Microsoft 8's launch and the development of ultrabooks, PCs continued to fall out of favor. It's an ominous trend for leading firms in the industry, and PC-concentrated stocks on the Dow have been bombed today. Shares of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ -1.41%) are down 6.5%, while Microsoft (MSFT -0.79%) and Intel (INTC -0.73%) are down 4.9% and 2.7%, respectively.

Intel is struggling, but the chip maker's efforts to expand into other markets -- such as its recent interest in developing an Internet TV service -- have helped to reduce its heavy position in the PC market. Microsoft and HP are in real danger, however. The former's advance into the mobile market with the Surface tablet and Windows 8 has been met with a yawn, and Microsoft will need to find a successful way to pivot away from the dying PC industry. Meanwhile, HP's turnaround has inspired optimism this year as shares have surged, but the rapid fall in PC sales could reverse that trend despite the company's attempts to diversify.

Still, the Dow has managed to look past the tech sector's woes today, and the vast majority of member stocks are in the green. Pfizer (PFE 1.10%) continues its run higher, with shares up 2.3% to lead the surging Dow. The FDA's award of breakthrough therapy status to developmental breast-cancer drug palbociclib is a good sign for a company in need of new high-profile drugs after patent expirations have hurt sales. Some analysts have pegged the drug's annual peak sales at a whopping $5 billion, providing some future revenue punch for this big drugmaker.

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Stocks Mentioned

Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
^DJI
$31,822.97 (-0.18%) $-57.27
Intel Corporation Stock Quote
Intel Corporation
INTC
$41.70 (-0.73%) $0.30
HP Inc. Stock Quote
HP Inc.
HPQ
$34.56 (-1.41%) $0.49
Pfizer Inc. Stock Quote
Pfizer Inc.
PFE
$53.46 (1.10%) $0.58
Microsoft Corporation Stock Quote
Microsoft Corporation
MSFT
$258.60 (-0.79%) $-2.05

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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