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Dow, S&P 500 Set New Closing Highs

Dan Berman
Hot Stock Minute

Both the Dow and the S&P 500 set new closing highs today in the wake of Ben Bernanke's latest remarks. The indexes soared over 1% following the Fed chair's comments yesterday evening on quantitative easing. Bernanke said the economy is not yet ready to handle tapering the $85 billion a month bond buying program. Markets worldwide rose on the remarks. Meanwhile, on the economic front weekly jobless claims hit their highest mark in two months. The Labor Department says there were 360,00o new claims last week, up 16,000 from the prior week and higher than expectations which were for about 340,000.

Microsoft (MSFT) climbed nearly 3% on its restructuring plan. After much anticipation, CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the plan this morning. It moves away from a hierarchy based around divisions overseeing particular products. Instead the corporation will now institute a horizontal scheme with managers who honcho specific functions which are applied to multiple product lines. Ballmer said the main goal is have the organization operate holistically.

Chip maker (AMD) soared over 11% on two upgrades. Canaccord Genuity analyst Bobby Burleson moved the stock to buy from hold, citing the company's move away from PCs. Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch's Vivek Arya upgraded the stock to buy from sell saying the company will benefit from its involvement with the Sony PS4 and Microsoft Xbox One game consoles.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) also climbed 1.5% despite disappointing news. Research firm Gartner says HP is no longer the world's biggest PC seller having ceded the title to China's Lenovo in the latest rankings. On the upside, Hewlett-Packard appears to have slowed its sales erosion. Shipments were down somewhere between 5% and 8% while the overall PC market saw an 11% drop.

BlackBerry (BBRY) failed to gain along with the broader markets on news that two more executives left the company in recent weeks. The stock was up 0.5% as word spread of the departures. They come amid disappointing sales of the company's latest smartphones. On Tuesday, CEO Thorsten Heins pleaded for patience at the company's annual meeting, saying he needed more time to engineer a turnaround.

Costco (COST) shares rose 2% after reporting same-store sales for June. Costco says figures rose 6% for the month, beating estimates of 5.4%. This number is part of a larger climb. Last month same-store sales were up 5%. A year ago they were a more modest 3%. Good weather, lower gas prices, and an improving housing market are all cited as reasons for gains. Shares of Costco are up 12% year-to-date.

Private education company Apollo Group (APOL) rose 6%. Apollo says its University of Phoenix has gotten its accreditation extended through 2023. The company has also avoided being put on probation by the Higher Learning Commission. However, it will remain under watch for its administrative structure and governance. Prior to today's climb, Apollo was down 15% year-to-date and down 45% over the past year.

Yum! Brands (YUM) fell 1% in the wake of its quarterly earnings released after yesterday's closing bell. The company posted profits of 56-cents a share excluding special items when expectations were for 54-cents. That was down from 67-cents a year ago, and the company missed estimated for revenue by $30 million. The trouble of course comes from Yum's KFC stores in China where same store sales fell 20% from last year because of bird flu and food safety concerns. Despite the drop in business, Yum shares remain up 8% this year.