HP rally helps to stem falls on Wall Street

US stocks slipped yesterday but finished sharply off their session lows as a rally in Hewlett-Packard’s shares offset worries about weak Chinese manufacturing data and the prospects of the Federal Reserve reducing its monetary stimulus.

Trading was choppy as many traders were adjusting their positions ahead of the long holiday weekend. Markets will be closed on Monday for Memorial Day. Hewlett-Packard shares jumped more than 17 per cent to a fresh 52-week high a day after the world's largest PC maker raised its outlook. The stock’s surge supported the Dow and helped limit the S&P 500’s decline.

For most of the morning, the market had been pulled lower by worries that the Fed’s stimulus may be scaled back sooner than hoped and after weak factory data in China.

“People are using any kind of weakness as a buying opportunity and that’s why you see a fairly quick snapback throughout the day (after) what was some broad selling in the morning,” said Alan Lancz, president of Alan B. Lancz & Associates. “Investors are limited with their alternatives just because it’s such a low interest-rate environment.”

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 12.67 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 15,294.50 at the close. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slipped 4.84 points, or 0.29 per cent, to finish at 1,650.51. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 3.88 points, or 0.11 per cent, to close at 3,459.42.

Hewlett-Packard shares surged 17.1 per cent to end at $24.86, a day after the computer maker raised its 2013 earnings outlook following quarterly results that beat low expectations. The stock touched a new 52-week high of $24.95 earlier in the session.
Ralph Lauren shares lost 2.3 per cent to $183.69 after the fashion company reported sales below its own forecasts.