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Falling PC sales clip stock prices of HP, Dell

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Shares of personal computer makers Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. slipped Friday after a research report confirmed fears that sales of laptop and desktop machines continued to fall during the three-month period that included the holiday shopping season.

Fourth-quarter PC shipments around the world declined 6 percent from the same time in 2011, according to numbers released late Thursday by International Data Corp. For all of 2012 IDC said worldwide PC shipments were 3 percent lower than in 2011.

HP fell 12 cents to close at $16.16, while Dell lost 16 cents to end at $10.88.

The erosion during the final three months of the year was worse than the 4 percent drop that IDC forecast earlier in the quarter. The research firm traced the trouble to a still-shaky economy and growing preference for smartphones and tablet computers for Web surfing, problems that have been plaguing the PC industry for the past two years.

Windows 8, a dramatic makeover of Microsoft Corp.'s dominant operating system for PCs, didn't provide a significant sales stimulus either, according to IDC. Microsoft has hailed Windows 8 as a breakthrough that will let people enjoy the convenience of touch-controls on a tablet while being able to toggle back to the familiar keyboard and mouse commands on traditional PCs.

Microsoft rose 37 cents to close at $26.83 on Friday. The shares are down by about 4 percent since Windows 8's Oct. 26 release, while the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 has climbed 4 percent.

HP, the world's largest PC maker showed some progress in the fourth quarter. The company's PC sales dipped by less than 1 percent worldwide in the period, an improvement from the third quarter when IDC estimated HP's shipments plunged 16 percent from the previous year.

Positive reviews of HP's latest line of PCs running on Windows 8 has recently reversed a steep slide in the company's stock triggered by declining revenue and huge losses from past acquisitions gone bad. Even with Friday's decline, HP's stock is up by more than 40 percent from a recent low of $11.35 in late November after the company absorbed an $8.8 billion charge for the problems arising from its $9.7 billion acquisition of business software maker Autonomy.

Dell, the second largest PC maker in the U.S. behind HP, didn't fare as well. Its worldwide PC shipments plummeted by nearly 17 percent in the fourth quarter, according to IDC.