Wall Street Watch Thursday: Hewlett-Packard Drops the Box

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hp computersNo one was expecting good news out of Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) analyst day on Wednesday, but few imagined that the leading PC maker would dramatically slash its near-term guidance.

HP's Meg Whitman stunned investors in forecasting profitability to drop in the new fiscal year that begins next month. After earning what will likely be around $4.06 a share for the current fiscal year, HP is now expecting profitability to clock in between $3.40 a share and $3.60 a share.

Sure, there's plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that the company was in trouble. PC sales have been sluggish worldwide over the past few quarters, and even HP's high-margin printing business is having its problems in an age where folks simply share documents and photographs online instead of physically printing them out.

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However, HP's biggest problem is that the trend is not its friend. The booming smartphone and tablet markets are eating into the traditional desktop and laptop markets. HP would love to be a relevant player in smartphones or tablets, but the market for its products has failed to materialize.

Bulls will argue that Whitman is setting the bar low enough so that HP can easily surpass these expectations. However, after hitting new nine-year lows on Wednesday -- and appearing unlikely to bounce back on Thursday -- the smarter money appears to be steering away from this struggling tech giant.

Other Things Worth Watching

• Marriott (MAR) checked in with encouraging results after Wednesday's market close. The hotel operator saw a huge pop in profitability, but the more impressive metric here is Marriott's 6% increase in REVPAR, or Revenue Per Available Room. This is the gauge that often matters most in the lodging industry, as it combines occupancy levels with the actual rates that overnight guests are paying. The 6% global increase -- and the even more encouraging 7% REVPAR uptick in North America -- prove that vacationers and business travelers really did show up this summer.

• Thursday will be a busy day in terms of economic data that will move the markets. The day kicks off with weekly jobless claims data at 8:30 a.m. ET, followed at 10 a.m. by factory orders for the month of August and Freddie Mac's weekly tally of average mortgage rates. There's never a dull moment on Wall Street.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article.

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