Today: Google (GOOG) undergoes massive changes in just two days, shifting executives around and killing off offerings, including the much-loved Google Reader. Also: Dow wins again and S&P nears record high, with tech stocks assisting the gains.

Google shuffles executives, kills off Reader in attempt to refocus

With Google trading at all-time highs and being lauded for pushing technology forward with the soon-to-arrive Glass and other innovations such as self-driving cars, it would have been easy for the Mountain View search giant to keep everything in stasis. Instead, Google has undergone a series of changes in the past two days that have clouded its future and angered users.

The changes began Wednesday, when CEO Larry Page announced in a blog post that Andy Rubin, the innovator who had developed the Android mobile operating system and run the division in charge of the offering since Google acquired it in 2004, would step down from his post for another, unnamed position. The move came just one day after IDC predicted that Android tablets would outsell Apple's (AAPL) dominant iPad for the first time in 2013, after already taking the crown in smartphones thanks to the performance of Samsung, which is planning to show off its newest phone at an Apple-like gala Thursday evening.


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Analysts said the change, which put the head of the Chrome division in charge of Android, would help Google offer more consistency across its different offerings.

"It makes sense that Sundar Pichai is taking over, as we'll likely see more confluence between those platforms over the next few years," Edward Jones analyst Josh Olson told the Mercury News.

Google wasn't done with its game of musical chairs in the executive suite, however. Thursday morning, The Wall Street Journal reported that the executive in charge of a department called "Geo and Commerce" -- Google Maps and Google Shopping to users -- had been reassigned to Google X, the department responsible for new ideas such as Glass and self-driving cars that is led by Page's cofounder, Sergey Brin. the department will be split up, with Maps being placed in the Search department and Shopping being run by Google's advertising leader.

The shuffling seems to be an attempt by Page to reorder the top executive ranks and their duties while grouping similar efforts under the same executives. Google is now split into five main product groups instead of seven, and therefore fewer people are reporting directly to Page.

Google's move to streamline its offerings that received the most attention didn't involve executive changes, however. The company announced Wednesday afternoon that it would kill off Google Reader, a popular RSS reader, in June, along with six other products.

In the blog post, Google seemed to bring all these moves together in saying that it was looking to streamline.

"Usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we are pouring all of our energy into fewer products," the post said.

Users of Google Reader went ballistic on social media, but Google has yet to back down or apologize, stating in its blog post that usage of the service has decreased and that it will be put to rest on July 1.

Google stock trended down slightly Thursday, losing 0.5 percent to close at $821.54.

Unemployment applications, housing gains boost Wall Street

Though Google fell, Wall Street still enjoyed yet another day of gains Thursday, with the Dow Jones industrial average increasing for the 10th consecutive session and setting a record closing high for the seventh straight day. The other two major U.S. indexes also increased, with the Standard & Poor's 500 closing just two points shy of its all-time high.

Investors were cheered by strong data on the U.S. economy, with weekly unemployment applications falling again and bringing the four-week average of that metric -- a less volatile measure favored by economists -- to a five-year low. After stocks' growth had slowed down in the past couple days due to what experts called "buyers' exhaustion," the good news led to predictions of another round of gains.

"It's a little bit more fuel on the fire," Jeffrey Davis, chief investment officer at Lee Munder Capital Group, told Bloomberg News. "It's been a long time since you've seen momentum both on the market and technical front being supported by economic fundamentals. In spite of the fact the market's not as cheap as it once was, it's looking like the rally should continue."

Like the labor market, the housing market continued to show signs of improvement, with home prices in the Bay Area increasing year-over-year in February for the ninth month in a row, though the gains seem to be slowing down -- sales were below average and the median price dipped from January to February, DataQuick reported.

HP continues to gain, Apple claws back some value

Tech stocks managed to gain overall Thursday, led by Silicon Valley: While the tech-heavy Nasdaq had the smallest gain among the three major U.S. indexes, the SV150 index outgained them all with a 0.6 percent increase.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) continued to help the Dow in its record streak after being the worst-performing stock in that index in 2012, with the Palo Alto tech giant increasing 2.9 percent to $21.93. Apple has been the opposite of HP -- booming in 2012 and falling in 2013 -- but it also managed to gain Thursday, increasing 1 percent to $432.50.

Palo Alto's VMware continued to run hot after Wednesday's gains, increasing another 4.6 percent to $85.10. Software companies had a good day, with Redwood City giant Oracle (ORCL) increasing 2 percent to $36.30 and Jive Software adding 5.4 percent to close at $16.54.

Silicon Valley tech stocks

Up: Jive, VMware, HP, Electronic Arts (ERTS), Oracle, Zynga, eBay (EBAY), Splunk, Advanced Micro Devices, Apple, NetApp, Symantec, Workday

Down: Tesla, Netflix (NFLX), SolarCity, SunPower (SPWRA), Google, Facebook, Juniper, Intuit

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 13.81, or 0.43 percent, to 3,258.93

The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 83.86, or 0.58 percent, to 14,539.14

And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 8.71, or 0.56 percent, to 1,563.23

Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.