Updated from 11 a.m. EDT Ciena ( CIEN) gave bulls more room to run as executives offered an optimistic fiscal fourth-quarter outlook, based on strong sales trends. Ciena shares rose 6%, hitting a one-year high of $41.86, as executives spoke at the company's annual analyst day event in New York's Times Square. CEO Gary Smith said he had "confidence" in the revenue numbers for the quarter ending Oct. 31. And though the company didn't provide an update to its sales and profit targets, Ciena raised its fiscal fourth-quarter gross margin guidance to a range of 47% to 49% from the previous mid-40% range. Smith went on to say that the company's specialist role as an independent equipment supplier to phone companies has provided some shelter from price cuts by larger rivals like Alcatel Lucent ( ALU) and Nortel ( NT). Ciena executives also relieved some concerns, saying they saw no impact from AT&T's ( T) spending cuts that have hit the top line at other gear peers. When asked how AT&T orders were coming in, Smith said he'd seen "no interruptions." "They gave positive guidance and answered all the questions," said one investor at the event. "That tells me it's a good quarter." Ciena did not provide a specific sales forecast, but repeated earlier comments that the company expects growth to be faster than the market. And by analysts' estimates, that put Ciena at least in the 20% range. Last year, Ciena projected annual sales growth of around 24%, and went on to blow past that rate with a 37% year-over-year increase. The surge has helped win fans to the Ciena investment story. One analyst at the show said he saw the stock going to $45 this year as the price catches up to Ciena's performance. Others were even more optimistic, though with some cautions. "I think it goes to $45 or $50," said one money manager at the conference. "It worries me, though, people are told they have to be in tech and they are selling their Coca Cola ( KO) to get in." To watch Scott Moritz's video take of this column,
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