Paper cuts and paper profits came in handy this past week. Let's take a closer look.

Hurd issues an inevitable cattle call
It didn't take long for incoming CEO Mark Hurd to realize what kind of tangled-up yo-yo Carly Fiorina left him at Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ). Realizing that attaching a rudder to a rudderless company isn't enough -- you have to make sure that the vessel is actually buoyant -- HP announced that it would be cutting 14,500 full-time jobs over the next six quarters. That is roughly a tenth of the company's present workforce.

No one likes to be laid off. It's not a whole lot of fun to write about people being laid off, quite frankly. Real names and real lives are attached to those on the way out. It's not just a number. Then again, it was really just a matter of time for HP.

Fiorina's decision to marry HP with Compaq has proved disastrous. Hurd can't go back in time and remedy that. But what he can do is make sure that he takes the hand that his company was dealt and play it well. If HP wants to be the top dog in personal computers, it needs to get its cost structure in line with Dell Computer (NASDAQ:DELL). Trimming payroll isn't the solution, but it's a good start.

HP can't compete with Dell on price or Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) on style. Unless it wants to be lapped by Gateway (NYSE:GTW), it needs to get serious about getting its costs in order. The company's flagship printing business is still going strong, but Hurd was brought in to put all of the pieces together -- and discard those that don't fit with his vision of HP.

It's like fitting a square Meg into a round hole
It was a week of vindication for eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) after the company produced a blowout second quarter. The timing was merely a bonus; it came when a few other dot-com bellwethers failed to live up to their amped-up expectations.

Over at eBay, revenues rose by 40%. Earnings came in at $0.21 a share, a few pennies better than its original forecast of $0.16 to $0.18 per share. The company's PayPal online payment service and its auction business abroad improved by better than 50% as its domestic auction marketplace revenues grew by 27%. That last point is worth repeating because, until then, every recent quarter had seen a decline in year-over-year stateside growth. Back in March, U.S. marketplace sales had risen by just 20%.

The turnaround at eBay comes when many had figured that the company was destined to slide down a spiral of slower and slower growth with every passing quarter. Apparently, eBay isn't going to go down that path. It's doing just fine in the U.S., and it's got some promising ventures working overseas in countries like China.

Operating the world's largest virtual flea market doesn't mean you have to have fleas. It just means you have to know where to scratch.

The headlines behind this week's stories:

Until next week, I remain,

Rick Munarriz

eBay and Dell are selections of the Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wrote this article on his HP computer. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy .