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Business & Real Estate

August proved bad news for market

With a rocky August in the rearview mirror, tensions in Syria pushing oil prices to their highest level this year and the Federal Reserve’s indecision on tapering off its bond-buying program, it’s time for investors to take stock.

U.S. stocks closed modestly higher Thursday as the economy began to show signs of improvement – even as the Syria disaster plays out. While many investors expect a U.S. military strike in the wake of Syria’s alleged poison-gas attacks, analysts do not fear a long-term impact on the market. Compared with other investments, many analysts still believe stocks are the only game in town and look beyond crisis in the Middle East.

Market bulls argue that valuations are still well below prior bull-market peaks and that company earnings and dividends are still rising. That data could also bolster the case for the Fed to wind down its stimulus program sooner.

Historically, August has never been an exciting month for the market. A failed attempt at new highs would suggest that the primary trend has turned bearish, but consumer sentiment is on the rise and investors are still in the game.

Town Crier “50” company Intuit Inc. (INTU; $63.57) trumpeted the launch of the Intuit QuickBooks Cloud ProAdvisor Program last week, which should be a boon for management solutions. The program is designed to help accounting professionals start and grow their practices using Intuit’s free leading online financial and employee solutions.

“The cloud is no longer a new concept,” said Louis Sanchez, director at Intuit. “It is a necessary platform for accounting professionals to leverage in order to launch their practices and meet clients’ needs.”

The Mountain View-based Intuit provides business and financial solutions for small businesses, consumers and accounting professionals. Founded in 1983, the company sells its products and services via various sales and distribution channels. Most consumers are aware of Quicken’s line of desktop software products that reconcile bank accounts, pay bills and track investments. TurboTax, Intuit’s flagship product, is a familiar interface for users during tax season.

The company released its fiscal fourth-quarter results last week, and the numbers failed to impress analysts. On an adjusted basis, the company broke even on a per-share basis. Revenue grew 12 percent to $634 million.

Intuit’s upgrade and downgrade history has varied, with most analysts deeming the stock a hold. The mean target price is $68.53, with a high of $80.

Looking ahead

Projections from research firm International Data Corp. last week may herald trouble for three Town Crier “50” companies.

The future for personal-computer makers and component suppliers grows bleaker – IDC cut its unit-shipment forecasts for the computer tech sector.

IDC predicted that worldwide PC shipments would fall by 9.7 percent in 2013 and 2 percent in 2014. After 2015, the company forecasts single-digit growth.

The PC market is experiencing its longest market contraction on record, largely because customers are purchasing tablets and smartphones rather than replacing their PCs. IDC projects that 315 million PCs will be shipped this year, compared with 349 million in 2012.

The forecast is bad news for Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ; $22.35). In the second quarter, China-based Lenovo rose to the No. 1 PC vendor ranking, pushing HP to No. 2.

Intel Corp. (INTC; $22.02) continues to focus aggressively on mobile products to offset pressure from declining computer and chip sales.

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT; $33.40) is in talks to buy stakes in other companies to compensate for problems after the release of Windows 8.

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