Updated since 4:53 pm

Juniper ( JNPR) blew past financial targets in the fourth quarter, sending investors a good sign on the prospects for big rival Cisco ( CSCO).

The networking gearmaker posted adjusted earnings of 27 cents a share, up from a 19 cent pro forma profit in the year-ago quarter. Analysts had been looking for a 24 cent profit.

Sales for the quarter were $809.2 million, a 36% increase over the $595.8 million level last year. That top line exceeded analysts estimates calling for sales of $786 million.

For the year, Juniper posted an adjusted net income of $504 million or 87 cents a share. Those numbers compare with a pro forma profit of $440.4 million or 73 cents a share in 2006. Sales for 2007 were up 23% to $2.8 billion.

Looking ahead, Juniper slightly raised guidance on an earnings conference call, citing "good visibility" and "momentum."

For the first quarter, Juniper expects to post an adjusted profit of around 24 cents to 25 cents a share on sales of $815 million in sales. Wall street was looking for a profit of 24 cents on sales of $798 million in sales.

For the year, Juniper adjusted profit to be somewhere in the range of $1.08 and $1.13 per share on sales between $3.4 billion to $3.55 billion. Wall Street was looking for a profit of $1.11 on sales of $3.42 billion.

"We look forward to 2008 as another high-performance year, where we believe the intensity of our focus and execution will produce accelerating growth and leverage across our business," CEO Scott Kriens said in a press release.

Juniper shares surged $1.60, or 6%, to $27.90 and Cisco was up 44 cents to $25.55 in after-hour trading Thursday.