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Byline: PATRICK SEITZ
Market trackers on Thursday reported surprisingly strong fourth-quarter personal computer sales, thanks largely to U.S. consumers.
But then, PC makers gave shoppers a reason to buy, offering rock-bottom prices on new desktops. Makers sacrificed revenue and profit to boost their shipments last quarter, analysts say.
"Being profitable in this environment is extremely difficult," said Gartner analyst Charles Smulders.
Hewlett-Packard squeaked by Dell to retake the title of world's No. 1 PC seller, said Gartner and International Data Corp.
Analysts expect a horse race between the two companies for the next few quarters. Direct-seller Dell is expected to retake the crown this quarter, which is usually …