After five days of Dow Jones industrial average turmoil, it was a relief to see the market rising again last week. In the wake of the steady decline, the Dow now stands approximately 4.9 percent below its Aug. 2 all-time closing high.
Investors may be inclined to view the five-day retreat as a significant secondary correction and assume that there is no shortage of reasons to be bearish, given the Federal Reserve’s noncommittal approach to tapering off its bond-buying program.
According Michael Strauss, Common Fund’s chief investment strategist, the Fed’s reduction of asset purchases will “signal a stronger economy, which will be good for stocks.”
“Stay calm here and look at the taper, look at the reasons why it might occur,” Strauss said last week. “If it’s because the economy’s doing a little bit better, that’s actually a good thing.”
Two Town Crier “50” companies made headlines last week.
• Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ; $22.49) released disappointing third-quarter results last week, prompting the stock price to tumble.
Officials at HP, the world’s largest computer manufacturer, reported that the company made $1.4 billion in profit on sales of $27.2 billion in the third quarter, or 71 cents per share. The numbers beat analysts’ projection of 61 cents, but quarterly revenue dropped 8 percent.
CEO Meg Whitman subsequently hit the airwaves to answer for the poor showing. In an interview Friday morning on CNBC, Whitman claimed that HP is on track with regard to its five-year turnaround plan and outlined how acquisitions are part of her long-term strategy. The company is in a position, she said, to rethink its capital allocation strategy.
“Acquisitions will become part of our future,” she added. “We have our eyes on a number of areas. Some are in the $100 million to $300 million range and perhaps some up to $1.5 billion.”
HP’s sales and profits derive primarily from personal computers and printers, sales of which are in decline as consumers flock to purchase iPhones and tablets. Revenue in HP’s Computer Division declined 11 percent from a year earlier, and the printing business fell 4 percent.
During Whitman’s CNBC appearance, host Jim Cramer noted that HP has some “cool” new products in the works, including Moonshot, a software-defined server that can harness Internet traffic for enterprises. Cramer noted that Hewlett-Packard needs three things: “new products, worldwide growth and a lot of luck.”
• Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO; $23.94) shares have fallen since the company released its July-quarter earnings. Although slightly above expectations, results proved disappointing.
For the quarter, earnings per share came in at 52 cents – besting analysts’ consensus estimate of 51 cents – and revenues totaled $12.4 billion. Cisco generated a record $4 billion in operating cash flow for the quarter.
The company announced plans to cut 4,000 jobs, approximately 5 percent of its workforce. The layoffs represent a diversion of resources to newer, faster-growing areas like cloud computing, mobility and Internet products.
Despite the setback, Cisco, one of the key suppliers of telecommunications and networking equipment for the Internet, continues to gain market share. Since initiating a dividend in March 2011 at a quarterly rate of 6 cents per share, it has more than doubled last year’s quarterly dividend with a 2.80 percent yield and an annualized dividend payout of 68 cents per share.
Some analysts advise caution with regard to Cisco stock, but others suggest an upgrade from cautious to neutral or market perform. The median target price is $28, with a high of $32.