The party's back on for shareholders, thanks to an out-of-the-blue rate cut by the US Federal Reserve Bank and surprisingly strong financial results from the likes of IBM, Apple and Siebel Systems.
After months of pain, shareholders in hi-tech companies had reason to celebrate on Wednesday when prices moved up rapidly, fuelled by a number of separate events. Intel and Hewlett Packard intimated that they believed their respective sales slumps were at an end and that the second half of the year would see growth.
These forward-looking statements in themselves sent hi-tech share prices upwards but when the Federal Reserve Bank cut interest rates to 4.5 per cent the major indices roared ahead.
By market close the Dow Jones Industrial Index was up 399.10, or 3.9 per cent, at 10,216.70. The Nasdaq was up 156.22, or 8.12 per cent, to 2079.44.
The close of the market was the signal for a number of major hi-tech companies to release sales and profit figures for the quarter ended 31 March and, almost without exception, the results were encouraging.
IBM said turnover rose a better than expected 8.8 per cent to $21bn from $19.3bn a year earlier. Net income increased to $1.75bn, or 98 cents a share, from $1.52bn, or 83 cents a share. More importantly, Big Blue said it was going to hit its targets for the year.
Apple blew away profit estimates. It was expected to make one cent per share but, in fact, made 11 cents, or $40m. That figure was down from $161m, or 44 cents a share, in 2000. Apple's sales were down from a year ago, but not as much as was expected. The figure dropped by 26 per cent to $1.43bn from $1.95bn.
Software maker Siebel Systems, which market watchers thought would be struggling along with arch rival Oracle, had what its chairman, Tom Seibel, called a "spectacular" quarter.
Turnover for the first quarter was $588.7m compared to $319.7m in 2000, up 84 per cent. Net income more than doubled to $76.9m, or 15 cents per share, compared with $35.3m, or seven cents per share, a year ago.
Other companies such as chip maker AMD and chip equipment maker KLA Tencor also released positive figures, and only communications chip maker Broadcom issued a warning that it had no idea how the rest of the year would go.
Analysts are not sure that the worst is over for the hi-tech sector, however. "You have to take a wait-and-see attitude," said Ricky Harrington, an analyst with brokerage Wachovia Securities.
All eyes are now on Microsoft, which releases its results on Thursday.
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