Updated from 10:43 a.m. EDT IBM ( IBM) shares lost some ground Friday, as the level of new business in Big Blue's massive services arm underscored that a real upturn in enterprise spending is not yet under way. Investors were also disappointed by a bigger-than-expected loss in the company's semiconductor arm. IBM's stock was recently off $2, or 2.1%, to $92. But IBM also delivered an upside surprise on first-quarter sales and in-line earnings in an after-the-bell report. At Goldman Sachs, analyst Laura Conigliaro summed up the quarter as unexciting. "IBM's in-line March quarter was not the definitive statement we would have preferred, although, on balance, it was also not much different from many other tech companies with revenue a little higher
and earnings in line," she wrote. Conigliaro noted that IBM also offered the now-familiar commentary that rising corporate profits should stimulate more technology buying. "In short, investors will probably have to wait until the June quarter is well under way before getting a real sense of upside potential. That said, IBM's organic growth is beginning to look a little healthier and should improve further during the year," she said. IBM's real revenue growth (at constant currency) of 2.9% was "higher than we had expected (0.8%), driven primarily by hardware and software," she noted. In fact, the currency benefits of a weak dollar that have helped IBM so much over the past year or so will be a little less evident in the June quarter, when currency should contribute about 400 basis points (down from the March quarter's 750 basis points). But Conigliaro thinks that with enterprise spending improving and continued share gains by Big Blue, IBM could show signs of potential top- and bottom-line upside by the end of the June quarter. (Goldman hasn't done recent banking for IBM.) "I do expect IBM to do better later in the year simply because they're so large and economically exposed" -- and the economy is in rebound mode, said Michael Holland, manager of the Holland Balanced fund, which owns IBM shares. "I expect better results relative to expectations as the year goes on."