Microsoft Stock Soars, Dow Rises Above 15,000

Microsoft Stock Soars, Dow Rises Above 15,000

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The stock market rose again today, sparked by weak housing numbers that made the case for Federal Reserve tapering look more tenuous. The Dow Jones Industrial Average , meanwhile, benefited from a sudden rally in Microsoft stock, and the blue chip index added 46 points, or 0.3%, ending at 15,010.

Roaring 7.3% higher, stock in the Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft got a huge boost from today's news that CEO Steve Ballmer is on his way out, set to retire sometime in the next year. Volume was about five times average levels Friday, as Wall Street applauded Ballmer's exit. Though he had held the office since the turn of the century, Ballmer has been widely criticized in recent years as Microsoft's dominance steadily ebbed.

AT&T added 1.4%, gaining for a second straight day as telecom ended as the hottest sector in the markets. One reason AT&T investors piled into the stock today was simply the massive annual dividend, which sits at 5.2%. While this might be cited on any day as a reason to invest, Friday saw bond yields fall, which makes high dividend stocks like AT&T more alluring to income investors.

Unlike Microsoft, Travelers' stock was out of favor today, losing 0.5%. Also unlike Microsoft, the move came on pretty light volume, implying that there wasn't any major news driving the decline (there wasn't, as a matter of fact). While Travelers trades at just 10 times earnings, there's a reason for the relatively slow multiple: relatively slow growth. The company hasn't once grown sales at even a 2% clip in any of the past four years; that sort of stagnancy will rarely be rewarded with heady valuations.

Cisco Systems , however, has not only been able to achieve sales growth above 2% per annum, but it has also boosted earnings by more than 20% in three of the past four years. Nonetheless, the stock fell 0.6% today, as Microsoft stole the spotlight in the tech sector. The IT mainstay has been duly rewarded by the markets for its consistent outperformance and trades within 10% of its 52-week highs today.

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