The market fell for the third day in a row last Friday, the first negative week for investors since mid-April. The drop triggered concern that began when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said a change could come in future meetings when the Fed reduces the stimulus. The stimulus programs Bernanke initiated have helped feed a four-year rally in stock prices.
Where is the market headed from here? Should investors buy on the dip? It’s a serious move and raises the question of whether such a move could be profitable when the Chinese economy is contracting. While Fed action remains a question mark and some stocks are still overbought, where but the stock market can you get a reasonable return for your money?
Two Town Crier “50” stocks made headlines last week.
• Microsoft Corp. (MSFT; $34.20) shares have surged 28 percent this year, reaching levels last seen in January 2008. Gains were made despite sluggish personal computer sales and the company’s weakness in mobile computing.
The company, based in Redmond, Wash., with a presence in Mountain View, remains strong. No other competitor will eclipse the performance of Microsoft’s operating system or unseat Microsoft Office’s popularity – and Windows 8 is picking up steam. Microsoft’s recent ad campaign mocking Apple takes a negative slant but gets its point across.
Microsoft unveiled Xbox One, its first new video-game console in eight years. The console features a living-room system that claims to be the only system households will need for games, movies, television and other entertainment. It will be available for purchase later this year at an undisclosed price.
Analysts’ consensus reports on Microsoft stock predict that the opportunity is huge, but so are the challenges. Several analysts reversed recommendations from a buy to a hold. The high target price for Microsoft stock is $42 and the median $33.
• Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ; $24.40) shook up analysts and investors last week when its second-quarter results beat Wall Street expectations. Excluding certain items, the company posted earnings of 87 cents per share, down from a year ago but surpassing the estimate by 6 cents.
The Palo Alto-based company recorded sales of $27.6 billion, down by a half billion from a year ago. Profit sank 32 percent from the previous year.
In a conference call to analysts, CEO Meg Whitman said, “I must say that I’m encouraged with where we are. We have made significant progress, and you can feel the turnaround taking place at HP. Revenue growth is possible in 2014.”
Investors remain confused by the company’s sagging sales and profit over the past few years. The businesses HP acquired – including Autonomy for $11 billion – have not helped the bottom line either. The company exceeded forecasts by cutting costs and laying off 29,000 employees.
Before HP announced its quarter results, analysts had downgraded the stock to a sell, but post-results, they are recommending a hold. The mean target price for the stock is $20, with a high of $29.