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A trio of tech stocks headed up by

Dell

(DELL) - Get Dell Technologies Inc Class C Report

surged today in the wake of well-received earnings reports. The news offered a welcome respite for PC and chip stocks, which have been under increasing pressure over the past month on worries about continuing weak demand.

In early afternoon trading, shares of Dell jumped $2.06, or 9%, to $25.31, while

Nvidia

(NVDA) - Get NVIDIA Corporation Report

soared $1.72, or 17%, to $11.59 and

Analog Devices

(ADI) - Get Analog Devices, Inc. Report

gained $1.90, or 8%, to $25.78. The benchmark chip index, the

Sox

, gained a little over 3%.

In the wake of Dell's quarterly financial results, First Albany upgraded its rating from neutral to buy while extending the ritual compliments on the boxmaker's outperformance. "For the eighth consecutive quarter, Dell delivered results in line with guidance, highlighting the incredible consistency with which the company has been able to grow its business, despite the difficult spending environment," said the bank's note.

Though pricing battles among boxmakers have recently been cause for concern on the stock, analyst Walter Winnitzki said management's guidance suggests that average selling prices will actually grow in the quarter underway. "

That shows that the company has a lot of flexibility in its operating model and can quickly react to an aggressive pricing environment without impacting margins," he wrote. "This is evidenced by the fact that despite the spending lulls, Dell was able to gain more share in FY03 than it ever has in its history, yet it was able to grow its operating margins every quarter on both a sequential and year-over-year basis, showing the success it has had in managing for profitable market share growth."

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First Albany has no banking relations with the company.

Merrill Lynch's Steve Milunovich kept a neutral rating on the stock, but he couldn't find much to complain about other than to suggest the stock couldn't be considered a bargain. In a note this morning, he wrote, "About the worst that can be said is that Dell isn't a technology company (why should shareholders care?) or that it's not as good as

IBM

(IBM) - Get International Business Machines Corporation Report

or

H-P

(HPQ) - Get HP Inc. Report

at enterprise solutions (but time is on Dell's side)."

Milunovich called the stock "modestly attractive" with a forward P/E under 25 times. But that comment was based on Thursday's close of $23.25; the stock has since tacked on nearly two bucks. Merrill hasn't done recent banking for Dell.

Meanwhile, shares of Nvidia soared a day after the company reported

sales and earnings far above expectations, helped by the resolution of a spat with

Microsoft

. But the company didn't offer any guidance, other than to confirm that Xbox revenue would continue to decline as a portion of its sales, from about 20% of the total. Analysts were split over Nvidia's prospects.

Wedbush Morgan upgraded the stock to buy, arguing the company's fundamentals are likely to bottom in the quarter now underway. "With all the downward adjustment of Microsoft Xbox chipset shipment taking place in

the current quarter, and the product transition to GeForce FX to be completed in

the same period, we believe the outlook of the company will become much better," wrote analyst David Wu, whose firm has no banking relations with Nvidia.

But another analyst, Jonathan Hykawy of Harris Partners, sounded more skeptical. "A significant part of

NVDA's stellar earnings came from a fortuitous accounting circumstance" related to the resolution of the Microsoft disagreement, he pointed out. He maintained an underperform rating on the shares, pointing to margin pressure as NVDA and

Alleghany Technologies

(ATYT)

fight for graphics share and the expected release of a new line of competitive graphics chips from Alleghany. Harris Partners hasn't done banking for Nvidia.

In other Wall Street actions, Banc of America's Doug Lee upgraded Analog Devices to neutral from a sell rating based on an improving valuation. In a note, he pointed out that the stock declined 17% through Thursday's close, leading to a "more reasonable" P/E of 21 times calendar year 2004 earnings. Bank of America hasn't done banking for Analog Devices.