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Hewlett-Packard Shares Rise As Some Worries Lift, But Not All

By Joan E. Solsman Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Hewlett-Packard Co.'s (HPQ) shares rose as much as 7.5% Thursday as quarterly results eased concerns about the company's slumping businesses and investors supported H-P's restructuring plan, which includes the elimination of 27,000 jobs. Despite the encouraging signs, obstacles still remain, something the company even acknowledged. "There's still an awful lot of work to be done, and we're looking at every option to accelerate the pace," Chief Executive Meg Whitman said during a conference call. Specific concerns among investors include soft consumer demand for personal computers, cautious tech spending and the ongoing economic uncertainty. H-P shares recently rose 4.1%, at $21.95, after hitting a higher earlier of $22.66. The stock, though, is still down 15% in 2012 and 42% from its year high in July. While H-P reported a 31% drop in profits and a 3% decline in revenue for the second quarter ended April 30, both figures were actually better than the company's projections. In addition, there were signs of stabilization. For the first time in more than a year, its personal-systems group--which includes PCs--held off a decline in revenue and margins improved in its services and printing businesses. Along with the results, H-P said it would reduce its work force by 8% over the next two years to eventually garner $3 billion to $3.5 billion in yearly savings. Analysts said the plan was a good step but no silver bullet. Needham & Co. analyst Richard Kugele called the restructuring more of a reallocation of resources that will take time to have its desired effect. J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz said the planned reinvestments don't assure a transformation from distressed assets into a solutions leader. Moskowitz also noted that the climb in H-P shares likely reflected short-covering, saying investors had been pressing the stock down before the results. H-P's short interest--or those transactions that profit when the stock price falls--had more than doubled since the end of February, according to the Nasdaq. H-P's trading Thursday contrasts with that of rival Dell Inc. (DELL), which reported results that fell short of expectations. In addition, H-P's outlook for earnings in the current quarter compared favorably with the weaker guidance from Dell and NetApp Inc. (NTAP), the data-storage company that also suffered a stock slump Thursday because of its lackluster view. -By Joan E. Solsman, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2291; [email protected]

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