SAN FRANCISCO -- IBM ( IBM) took the mystery out of its third-quarter earnings report by disclosing some results more than a week early.

But analysts and investors still will be listening closely to Thursday's conference call for executive comments on potential weak spots in the broad-reaching business, which has surprised investors with a solid financial performance so far this year.

IBM announced a week ago that it earned $2.05 a share in the third quarter, up 22% year over year, on revenue of $25.3 billion. Analysts had been expecting EPS of $2.01 on revenue of $26.5 billion.

The results prompted at least six analysts to lower their one-year price targets by an average of $22, although the faltering economy, rather than the results, appears to account for much of the Street's pullback. IBM's one-year price target now stands at $120, according to Thomson Reuters.

Since announcing those results, IBM shares have taken the broader market's roller coaster ride, ending Wednesday at $88.29, down 7.7% from its Oct. 7 closing price of $95.65. IBM now trades at 10 times the 2008 EPS consensus estimate of $8.72. Fellow tech giant Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) sports a P/E ratio of 10.7.

Those early results got IBM out in front of the market to demonstrate it is "not in the same boat as Dell ( DELL) yet," says Allan Krans, software analyst for Technology Business Research. By showing the business remains stable, IBM countered the perception that shrinking IT budgets are a problem for all tech vendors, he adds.

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