Today in business: 5 things you need to know

The Week
IBM's stock rose by 3.8 percent early on Jan. 23.
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IBM's stock rose by 3.8 percent early on Jan. 23.

IBM gives investors good news, Apple is set to release earnings report, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion

1. IBM SMASHES EXPECTATIONS
International Business Machines reported late Tuesday that it made more money than analysts had predicted in 2012, joining a parade of tech companies that have done better than expected. IBM's stock jumped by 3.8 percent early Wednesday. Internet search giant Google rose by 5.1 percent after it, too, had beaten Wall Street estimates. The news extended a five-day climb for stocks. "Tech companies are really shattering expectations, which is obviously helping markets," says Todd Schoenberger, managing partner at LandColt Capital in New York. [Reuters]
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2. MICROSOFT GOES FOR A PIECE OF DELL
Microsoft is reportedly in talks to join a takeover bid for PC-maker Dell. Dell founder and chief executive Michael Dell is working with private equity firm Silver Lake Partners to find enough co-investors to pull off the deal, and Microsoft has $66 billion on hand. The transaction could be worth as much as $25 billion, which would make it one of the biggest buyouts ever. Dell is hoping that taking his company private would give the struggling PC-maker greater flexibility as it tries to restore profits by shifting toward lucrative business equipment and away from personal computers, which are suffering in the face of competition from increasingly popular mobile devices. [Financial Times]
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3. TECHNOLOGY ELIMINATES HUMAN JOBS
Millions of middle-class jobs lost in the Great Recession are never coming back, according to an Associated Press analysis. The bulk of these workers weren't replaced by counterparts in China or other hotbeds of outsourcing. They were replaced by machines, as software running computers and other machines became more sophisticated, allowing them to do work that once only humans could do. "I have never seen a period where computers demonstrated as many skills and abilities as they have over the past seven years," says Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of Race Against the Machine. [Associated Press]
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4. MCDONALD'S VALUE MENU DELIVERS SALES
McDonald's says its quarterly profits inched higher in late 2012 thanks to sales of Dollar Menu items and the McRib. The company also got a boost by pushing franchises to stay open on Christmas. Still, the massive fast-food chain warned that a key sales figure was set to decline in early 2013. McDonald's has been under pressure to keep up with changing dining habits and stiffer competition from rivals such as Burger King, Taco Bell, and Wendy's, which have reworked their menus and mounted a stronger challenge than ever to McDonald's dominance. [TIME]
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5. INVESTORS AWAIT NEWS FROM APPLE
All eyes are on Apple on Wednesday, as the company prepares to release its quarterly earnings after the market closes. Apple's stock has dropped by nearly 30 percent since September, largely due to disappointing iPhone 5 sales and fretting over whether new CEO Tim Cook will be able to live up to the legacy of the late Steve Jobs. Analysts expect Apple to report a solid quarter, says research analyst Walter Piecyk of BTIG, "but any reduction in earnings guidance could scare people." [Los Angeles Times]

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