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It was another solid week for the stock market, highlighted by a better-than-expected jobs report on Friday. The Department of Labor said the economy added 204,000 jobs in October, which was surprisingly strong given the long government shutdown in the month. Continued strong earnings helped give investors confidence and by the end of the week the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was up 0.94%.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) was the biggest winner this week, gaining 6.3%. The company's short list of CEO candidates was leaked mid-week, and investors were at least happy to be closer to finding a long-term leader. Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was on the list, which isn't surprising since he was a key to Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia. If he gets the job, he reportedly wants to bring Office to mobile devices and may even divest the Bing search engine. The other big name on the list is Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who has done a masterful job turning around the auto giant. There's still no final decision, but for the time being, investors are happy to be closer to a decision.
Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) was the second best performer on the Dow, gaining 4.2%. The company announced another "spin-in" acquisition, this time of Insieme. Spin-ins describe a situation when Cisco funds a start-up and then acquires the company later on. Insieme was funded with $100 million in cash in April of last year and buying the 16% of the company Cisco doesn't already own will cost up to $863 million.
Merck (NYSE:MRK) was up 3.5% this week on speculation that the company may eventually be broken into smaller pieces. CEO Ken Frazier said he was evaluating a possible spinoff of the company's animal health and consumer businesses, which may generate a higher premium outside the larger company. Pfizer is moving in the same direction and may lay the groundwork for Merck. Fundamentally, this doesn't change the company, but it could give investors a more focused company to buy instead of the diverse businesses owned by Merck.
Fool contributor Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Microsoft. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.