BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL) - Get Report, Qualcomm (QCOM) - Get Report and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) - Get Report did it. So did Intel (INTC) - Get Report and International Business Machines (IBM) - Get Report.
The technology companies -- bellwethers in their industries -- beat analysts' earnings or sales estimates in the first quarter. As a result, tech stocks are starting to gather a tailwind. Technology shares have risen 2.4% in the past five trading days, the third-best performance of 11 industries tracked by Morningstar behind consumer cyclicals and energy. Strong earnings -- and bullish outlooks -- helped propel shares, making up ground over three months, when technology is ranked ninth of 11 industries by Morningstar.
Those reports underscore the views of
technology-sector analysts, who signaled optimism in the industry late last year.
In an April 18 research note on one major software firm, Goldman analysts observed that "our checks and results from February bellwethers point to a continued robust (information-technology) spending backdrop."
Stocks in the information-technology industry are up an average of 4.6% this year (including 2.6% in the past week), as tracked by Fidelity, and 7.6% over the past year. That's still behind the Standard & Poor's 500 Index's gain of 6.3% and 10.7%, respectively.
Among the best performers this year are
, up 41%,
, up 22%, and
( ERTS), up 25%. In the past five days, the top gainers are
, each up 13%, and Intel, up 12%.
What follows are
, which have 12-month price targets with potential premiums of 17% to 33%, including an update on the mighty Apple, maker of the iPhone and iPad.
, which designs and sells network infrastructure for sophisticated computer networks, last week reported first-quarter earnings that were in line with analysts' estimates of 32 cents per share on revenue of $1.1 billion.
Goldman Sachs analysts said that performance should help the stock price, noting: "We expect some relief in the stock, after its 11% underperformance versus the S&P 500" over the past year.
But in that April 20 report, Goldman also lowered its price target to $50 from $54, based on a price-to-earnings ratio of 25 times its revised earnings estimate of $2.01 per share.
Its current share price is about $40, which means the premium to Goldman's target price is around 25%.
Juniper's customers, which include major companies and government agencies, use its products to securely deploy and manage services and applications across Internet protocol networks.
Juniper's shares are up 8.6% this year and 34% over the past 12 months. It has a market value of $21.4 billion.
reports first-quarter earnings today. Goldman Sachs analysts said Monday that "a solid report could help improve sentiment" for the provider of infrastructure and technology used to improve the delivery of content over the Internet.
The firm expects earnings of 38 cents per share, up 9% from a year earlier.
Its shares have been suffering, losing 15% this year.
"We expect upside in the quarter, driven by continued robust traffic growth as well as e-commerce data that suggest a modestly improved pace of activity versus (the previous quarter)," said the April 25 analysts' report.
Akamai is also seen benefiting from the acceleration in demand for services across a wide variety of online activities, including online-video consumption.
The company recently announced relationships with
in application acceleration,
in the mobile sector, and
, a privately held firm that is a provider of online network platform technology to broadband companies that includes "TV Everywhere."
But most of Akamai's revenue still "comes from high-margin value-added services, which have been exhibiting significantly higher growth than the 'volume' business,' " said Goldman.
"Given superior growth and economics, we view value-added services as the more important opportunity and look for Akamai to continue to leverage its vast global network to extend important e-commerce and corporate networking features to the cloud."
The firm's 12-month price target on Akamai's shares of $52 is based on a multiple of 27 to its 2012 earnings estimate of $1.91 per share. The target multiple includes an outlook for a potential mergers-and-acquisitions premium.
Akamai's current share price is about $40, making the Goldman price target a 29% premium.
Akamai's shares are up 19% over the past 12 months, giving it a market value of $7 billion.
, a provider of hardware, software and services for enterprise-network storage, reported strong first-quarter results last week with revenue of $4.6 billion beating Goldman Sachs' estimate of $4.5 billion and earnings of 31 cents per share, in line with other analysts' consensus, but just below Goldman's 32 cents.
As a result of that performance, the Goldman analysts reiterated it as a conviction-list "buy" rating. "Networked storage will continue to enjoy secular tailwinds throughout 2011, and EMC is well-positioned to capture the lion's share of this market's growth," said the April 20 research note.
"In addition, EMC's leading portfolio of cloud and next-generation enterprise technology assets should allow it to generate sustainable double-digit growth and build an increasingly software-centric earnings profile over the next several years," it said.
EMC has previously focused on proprietary storage hardware, but the company has recently increased its focus on its software and services segments, as well as cloud computing.
Goldman's 12-month price target of $33 is based on a weighted average of an estimate of EMC's fundamental value of $31 per share (80% of the total price) and a potential enhancement from a mergers-and-acquisitions value of $41 (20%).
The fundamental value of $31 is based on the firm's revised 2011 core earnings estimate of $1.21 per share, which is given as a price-to-earnings multiple of 15.
The Goldman price target is a 17% premium to EMC's current share price of about $28.
EMC shares are up 24% this year and 43% over the past year, giving it a market value of $54 billion.
designs consumer electronic devices, including PCs, the iPad, the iPhone and the iPod. And it is diversifying rapidly. Its iTunes online store is now the largest music distributor in the world, it sells and rents TV shows and movies, and sells applications for the iPhone and iPad.
Goldman Sachs reiterated its conviction-list "buy" on Apple after the company's earnings blowout last week. The bank raised its forecasts and 12-month price target to $470 from $450.
That new price target represents a 33% premium to its current price of about $352.
Goldman said the apples-to-apples comparison for the quarter is that the company's $24.67 billion in revenue beat its $23 billion estimate and the actual earnings of $6.40 per share beat its $5.37 per share estimate.
"Strong iPhone shipments of 18.65 million versus our forecast of 14.77 million was the key source of upside," said Goldman's analysts, in an April 21 research note. "IPad units came in below expectations, due to supply constraints that are now easing."
Another high point, the bank said, is that "operating margins of 31.9% were well ahead of (Goldman's) estimates and the highest in company history. Gross margins of 41.4% were also significantly ahead of (the firm's) forecast of 39.5%," said the analysts.
And likely whetting investors' appetites for more, is that Apple "expected a significant ramp in iPad 2 production and distribution this quarter, and that the product currently had the 'mother of all backlogs.' "
The Goldman analysts expect earnings for fiscal 2011 of $104.35 per share, rising to $127.41 in 2012 and $140.23 in 2013.
The new price target is based on a price-to-earnings ratio of 18, using Goldman's raised calendar-year earnings estimate. That represents a 19% discount to Apple's five-year average multiple of 22 times earnings.
Shares are up 8.7% this year and 35% over the past 12 months.
is a business-consulting and information-technology-services provider with market dominance in the fields of interactive marketing, trading and risk management.
An April 11 Goldman Sachs report said the company "remains one of our top small-cap secular growth recommendations benefiting from the twin waves of interactive-marketing initiatives and financial-services technology spending to address recent regulatory reform.
"Together, we expect these drivers to underpin robust average revenue growth of 27% through 2013, and faster 30%-plus earnings growth on modest margin expansion."
It should also benefit from improved pricing and labor-cost controls, the firm added.
Sapient is due to report first-quarter earnings May 5.
Goldman estimates it will earn 8 cents per share on revenue of $232 million.
Goldman is retaining its 12-month price target of $15, which suggests a 19% upside to the current price of about $12.50.
Sapient's shares are up 3% this year and 24% over the past year, giving it a market value of $1.5 billion.
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