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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Symantec and Avis Budget Group

CHICAGO, Aug. 29, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT-Free Report), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ-Free Report), Intel (Nasdaq:INTC-Free Report), Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq:SYMC-Free Report) and Avis Budget Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:CAR-Free Report).

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Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

PC Shipment Decline to Moderate?

According to the latest IDC report, the decline in PC shipments is expected to moderate, helped by increased spending in mature markets as a result of system refreshes and enterprise system migrations beyond Microsoft's (Nasdaq:MSFT-Free Report) XP operating system. Also, the demand for Chromebooks is on the rise in these markets which is expected to cushion the decline in PCs. Nonetheless, PC shipments in the emerging markets continue to be impacted by consumers' preference for tablets and mobile devices.

Buoyed by a forecasted 5.6% growth in PC shipments (140.7 million) in the mature markets, IDC now expects global PC shipments (303.5 million) to decline 3.7% in 2014, a marked improvement from its earlier forecast of a 6% decline. PC shipments in emerging markets (162.7 million) are however expected to be down 10.5% in 2014.

IDC has also stated that PC market cannibalization by tablets is weakening. The reduction of PC prices by vendors is turning out to be an offsetting factor.

Additionally, IDC expects PC shipment declines to moderate further to just 2.3% in 2015 backed by the extension of PC replacement cycles and the scheduled launch of Windows 9.

It is worth noting that the optimism expressed by IDC was reflected in some of the results declared by the companies such as Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ-Free Report), Intel (Nasdaq:INTC-Free Report) and Microsoft that are directly related to the PC industry. Apart from this, companies in allied industries, such as IT security service provider Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq:SYMC-Free Report), have seen an improvement in the market.

H-P reported top-line growth in the third quarter after 11 consecutive quarterly declines. Revenues improved primarily due to higher sales in the PC segment.

Also, the company witnessed growth in commercial revenues driven by strong demand for commercial desktops and notebooks. The ongoing upgrade of H-P's installed base and the expiration of the Windows XP operating system also aided segmental revenues. The consumer segment was aided by higher sales in its Americas and EMEA regions, which offset the soft demand in Russia and China.  

Intel also reported higher unit volumes, both sequentially and year over year, driven by the improving economic environment, PC refreshes in the enterprise and SMB segments, Windows XP end-of-life and the growing number of form factors that Intel currently caters to. This, in turn, aided the company's top-line performance.

Coming to Microsoft, Windows OEM revenues grew at a much slower rate of 3% as the 11% OEM Pro revenue growth was largely offset by a 9% decline in OEM non-Pro. Both OEM Pro and consumer licensing benefited from the withdrawal of XP support.

The current phase of system upgrades and PC refresh cycles remains the near-term catalysts for the industry. From a long-term perspective, PCs have to slog it out with other computing devices currently available, as returning to growth remains a distant possibility.

Avis' Zipcar Expansion on a Roll

Avis Budget Group, Inc.'s (Nasdaq:CAR-Free Report) wholly owned subsidiary, Zipcar, has recently collaborated with the city of Palo Alto to launch its car sharing services in the city. Further, the company plans to introduce 10 Zipcars in the city's four parking facilities located within the confines of the Downtown Parking Assessment District.

Members in the Palo Alto city are charged at rates which start from $8.50 per hour and $74 per day. Moreover, the company provides an extensive range of models such as Volkswagen Passat, fuel-friendly Toyota Prius Hybrid, and Hyundai Elantra, to name a few. With this cost-friendly mode of transport, Palo Alto residents will be able to lessen traffic, limit carbon emissions and address parking problems.

Interestingly, Zipcar already owns over 50 cars in the Stanford University campus, which is adjacent to the city. Notably, the company has gained significant popularity since it forayed into Stanford in 2011, which is evident from its solid membership at the campus. Meanwhile, its entry into Palo Alto is expected to widen members' reach, enhance customer convenience and add to the company's customer base.

Apart from Stanford, Zipcar has over 1,400 vehicles in the greater Bay Area.

Additionally, Zipcar has a vehicle for Business program, which offers driving rates at discounted prices during weekdays. This benefits the city's local business employees with reduce parking needs and cost savings as well as protects the environment by cutting down carbon emission levels.

Zipcar operates a car-sharing network and provides self-service vehicles to members in and around their residences and workplaces. The company's vehicles are available for use through its reservation system accessible by phone, Internet or apps on Androids and iPhone.

Avis Budget, sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), acquired Zipcar in Jan 2013 for a total value of $500 million.

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

About Zacks Equity Research

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Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit http://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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