After months of nearly straight-upward movement, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) finally got a shot of old-fashioned volatility this week, with 100-point moves in both directions on three out of the week's five trading sessions. Despite concerns about rising geopolitical tension and the long-held fear that the Dow is poised for a long-awaited correction, solid earnings results helped to boost the Dow to new record highs on Wednesday, and the Dow closed the week with a gain of 156 points, or almost 1%. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) paced the Dow's gains, while Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) was the worst performing Dow stock for the week.
Intel's nearly 8% gain came almost entirely from a stellar second-quarter earnings report for the chip giant. As it had warned investors previously, Intel reported that sales of its PC chips climbed dramatically, rising 9% from year-ago levels as the company cited huge demand for PCs on the business side. The decision by Microsoft to stop supporting the Windows XP operating system helped spur many business customers to replace aging PCs with newer models, and even though Intel said that the consumer side of the PC business remained weak, Intel expects the enterprise push to continue at least throughout the remainder of this year. Meanwhile, Intel's mobile division is pushing hard to boost its market share, even though profits are likely to remain elusive for some time. Intel's exposure to the data center business has been much more lucrative, with sales climbing nearly 20% and operating income rising at double that pace. Intel hasn't solved all of its long-term problems yet, but investors were happy to see its legacy business shine one last time.
Microsoft rose more than 6%, with most of its gains coming in sympathy with Intel's gains. Obviously, if Intel is benefiting from PC upgrades among business customers because of Windows XP, then Microsoft should directly benefit from the upgraded operating systems that those customers will get with their new systems. At the same time, though, Microsoft is working at changing the way users think of software entirely, as its cloud-based software offerings are designed to have users buy subscriptions rather than outright licenses and produce recurring streams of revenue rather than one-time payments from users. Moreover, with Microsoft looking at ending mainstream support for Windows 7 near the beginning of 2015, investors wonder if a new operating system is in the works or if new cloud-based operating-system software could replace license-driven systems.
Johnson & Johnson's 3% drop came in the wake of its earnings release. On the surface, the health-care giant's results seemed quite strong, with earnings per share beating expectations on 9% overall revenue growth. Pharmaceuticals continued their dominance within J&J's corporate structure, with a 21% jump in sales leading the company forward. Yet concerns about Johnson & Johnson's outlook for the remainder of the year sent shares downward, and weakness in the medical-device segment has investors wondering if they wouldn't be better served by a breakup of the health-care conglomerate in order to get purer exposure to Johnson & Johnson's booming drug business.