Even though Wall Street saw more gainers than decliners today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 1.61%) stubbornly slipped 43 points, or 0.3%, to end at 14,676. The blue-chip index was plagued by a handful of companies that failed to excite investors -- in one way or another -- during one of the four most important times of the year: Earnings Season, Round 2.
That said, Microsoft (MSFT 1.29%) refused to lose Wednesday, adding 3.8% after a double dose of good news. For one, the market applauded Monday's announcement by hedge fund ValueAct Capital -- within which it touted its newly acquired $2 billion stake in Microsoft. ValueAct, as an activist fund, has investors licking their lips about a potential shakeup of top management.
The second catalyst for Microsoft's stock came as the company officially announced that the new Xbox console will be unveiled at a special event on May 21.
Now, for the disappointments: Procter & Gamble (PG 0.88%) was by far the hardest-hit of the day, cratering 6.6% after its weak profit outlook sent shares to their sharpest single-day drop in more than four years. P&G was actually able to beat on earnings, but the discouraging forecasts combined with revenue that wasn't quite up to snuff left shareholders with a sour taste in their mouths.
P&G shareholders can at least take solace in knowing that AT&T (T 0.09%) investors went on a similarly unpleasant ride Wednesday. Stock in the telecom giant stumbled 5% after painting a bleak picture of its own. Not only was revenue down, but AT&T also lost cell phone service subscribers in the period.
While Cisco Systems' (CSCO 2.25%) 2.5% stumble today doesn't even touch the two weaklings of the Dow, it's not insignificant, either. The go-to provider of all sorts of networking and technology equipment won't be out with earnings until May 15. So what gives? Well, extremely weak guidance from a competitor did the trick today, as Juniper Networks slipped almost 10% after earnings projections for the current quarter failed to impress anyone.