NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) - Get Report and Dell (DELL) - Get Report helped push stocks into positive territory late Friday, after Dell, the world's No. 2 PC maker, reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings Thursday afternoon.
Sidestepping the down-sales woes that hit
a week ago,
with 45 cents EPS vs. estimates of 32 cents a share and sales of $15.39 billion, up 19% from a year ago but below analysts' estimates of $15.74 billion.
Investors didn't seem bothered by fourth-quarter guidance estimates, which Dell said will track slightly higher than the third quarter's, while analysts are expecting $16.28 billion. Dell shares surged in pre-market trading Friday almost 4% to $14.20, then rallied Friday.
The highlight of Dell's earnings was its gross margin, which came in at 19.2%, well above Wall Street's estimate of 17.5%. Dell attributed the growth to improvements in its supply chain, pricing discipline and reduced component costs.
Dell closed Friday up 23 cents, or 1.68%, at $13.90.
Now it's on to HP, which reports fiscal fourth-quarter results Monday after the bell. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are looking for revenue of $32.75 billion and earnings of $1.27 a share, compared to sales of $30.8 billion and earnings of $1.14 a share in the same period last year.
With Dell Thursday afternoon, chipmaker
and small business bellwether
reported earnings, too. All reported solid numbers, but it was Salesforce.com that saw the best investor reaction.
The CRM software maker said
to $429 million while adjusted profit rose 12% to 32 cents a share (analysts were expecting 31 cents EPS on sales of $410.4 million). Shares soared immediately in after-hours trading, and on Friday afternoon,
of $134.95; they're up more than 80% since the beginning of the year.
Intuit, which beat sales and profit expectations, saw its stock drop more than 7% Friday. Investors disliked the company's report of costs associated with two recent acquisitions; Intuit is predicting adjusted earnings of 36 cents to 40 cents a share for the next quarter, while analysts want to see 45 cents.
The stabilizing but still-hurting small business sector also weighed on the company; according to Intuit's monthly small business employment index, there's been a 2.7% annualized increase in small biz hiring. "That's a slight uptick ... Although
that rate won't get anyone out of the recession any time soon," said CEO Brad Smith on the conference call.
Intuit closed Friday down $3.27, or 6.78%, at $44.93, Salesforce closed up $20.97, or 18.11%, at $136.74.
The tech sector's consolidation streak continued on Monday, with
, which prompted speculation
about the next big round of storage M&A.
EMC's stock closed up 31 cents, or 1.44%, at $21.82 on Friday.
made some noise Tuesday when it announced that
Keeping the British band off the service was a trademark dispute between the California tech firm and the Beatles' former record label,
, which was settled in 2007.
In separate news, the consumer tech giant is said to be
its carrier-agnostic iPhone SIM card strategy.
Overseas, Apple partner
, which has an exclusive deal to sell the iPhone in China, will
later this year.
Apple shares closed down $1.70, or 0.55%, at $306.73 on Friday.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
in its first five days of release, breaking movie, book and video game sales records.
shattered a record previously held by
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
, which generated $550 million in its first five days of sales.
Despite the buzz, shares of Activision, which are up 1.54% for the week, fell 0.36% Friday to close at $11.68.
, which recently sent shockwaves through the tech sector with its comments on IT spending, was also in the news this week, teaming with
Cisco shares ended flat on Friday, closing at $19.61.
--Written by James Rogers in New York.
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