Receiving a continuing boost from PC sales in the U.S., Lenovo grew sales in the fourth quarter of 2016 and thus maintained its hold on the No. 1 spot in global sales.

The return to growth broke a losing streak of six consecutive quarterly declines.

Still, no. 2 HP drew ever closer, according to two reports. IDC noted that competition between the two “remains fierce.” Lenovo has been No. 1 for three straight years even as its overall annual sales fell.

The new stats follow a recent Gartner report that forecasts little if any PC growth over the next two years. Lenovo, meanwhile, remains o talks to add Fujitsu’s PC business and rumors continue to circulate the company, which operates one of its two global headquarters in Morrisville, might buy Samsung’s PC business.

Eyeing organic growth, Lenovo also rolled out a broad range of new PCs, such as a high-end gaming lineup, as well as other Internet-related devices at the CES Show in Las Vegas.

Having made the U.S. market a key focus over the past several years with increased retail efforts through partners such as Best Buy and through a continuing flood of new, updated products, Lenovo grew its market share and sales numbers in numbers that impressed research firm IDC.

“The U.S. PC market was able to pull off a strong last quarter of the year with impressive growth in the retail PC segment that surpassed expectations,” said Neha Mahajan, senior research analyst for Devices & Displays at IDC. “Although this might signal regained consumer confidence in the PC market, with most of the sales being driven by aggressive promotions in the holiday season, it needs to be seen how much of the real demand is carried forward in the coming quarters.”

Both IDC and its rival in the research market, Gartner, reported similar shipment statistics for quarterly and annual shipments.

IDC didn’t release specific numbers for the U.S. but noted an improvement that ran counter to the overall global trend. Gartner did. HP and Dell remain the dominant sellers, ranking 1-2 respectively while Lenovo widened its lead over Apple for the No. 3 spot.

According to Gartner, Lenovo fourth quarter sales increased to nearly 2.3 million from 2.1 million year-over-year. Its market share grew more than a percentage point to 13.8 percent from 12.6 percent.

Apple sales, meanwhile, did grow to 2.1 million from 11.8 million and its market share inched up to 12.8 percent from 11.8 percent.

HP grew sales to 4.9 million and a 29.9 percent share, up from 4.6 million and 27.3 percent.

Dell came in second at 4.2 million and 25.2 percent share vs. 4.1 million and 24.4 share year-over-year.

“The United States market witnessed a slight decline in shipments this quarter,” IDC noted. “Following inventory growth in the third quarter, the fourth quarter saw growth toning down. At the same time, the retail PC market in the U.S. came out strong, backed by aggressive promotions by top PC vendors in December.”

The global picture

News outside the U.S., however, was much more grim.

Overall sales fell for the fifth consecutive year despite the slight fourth quarter growth shown by Lenovo, HP and Dell. Apple sales were flat and Asus, the other member of the top five, saw sales fall. Most of the decline took place among smaller providers.

For the year, Lenovo sales fell to 55.5 million from 57.2 million, according to IDC. Gartner reported sales of 55.9 million, down from 57.3 million.

HP sales were flat at 52.5 million, noted Gartner. IDC noted a slight increase to 54.3 million from 53.6 million.

Both reports said Dell increased sales to north of 39 million, growing by at least 2.6 percent.

Total global sales fell to 269.7 machines, down 6.2 percent, according to Gartner.

IDC figures were similar at 260 million, down 5.7 percent.

“Stagnation in the PC market continued into the fourth quarter of 2016 as holiday sales were generally weak due to the fundamental change in PC buying behavior,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, in the report.

“The broad PC market has been static as technology improvements have not been sufficient to drive real market growth.

“There have been innovative form factors like 2-in-1s and thin and light notebooks, as well as technology improvements, such as longer battery life. This end of the market has grown fast, led by engaged PC users who put high priority on PCs. However, the market driven by PC enthusiasts is not big enough to drive overall market growth.”