Big Blue Keeps Bulls Running

Stocks soared Wednesday on better than expected results from Intel and JP Morgan, and IBM kept the rally going after hours with strong earnings and upbeat guidance.

The news was good enough to ease slowdown and credit market fears, but investors still have to get through quarterly results from Merrill Lynch and Citigroup the next two days, two companies that have been hit hard by nine months of credit market turmoil.

IBM shares soared 6% in after-hours trading after the company rode 17% services growth to earnings of $1.65 a share and sales of $24.5 billion, both well ahead of Wall Street forecasts. The company raised full-year guidance too, saying, “We feel good about the rest of the year.”

Also reporting late Wednesday was eBay, which beat estimates with earnings of 42 cents a share on sales of $2.19 billion, but flat growth in active users limited after-hours gains.

Intel and JP Morgan led the Dow’s 2% gain during the day, rising 6% each on first-quarter results that beat analysts’ forecasts. The Nasdaq rose almost 3% on the day.

Hardware makers followed Intel higher, with HP, Dell, IBM and Apple all posting solid gains.

AMD, which will report earnings late Thursday, gained 5% despite warning last week that its numbers will come in shy of estimates. Nokia, which will report Thursday morning, also gained 5%.

Seagate lost 5.5% after lowering guidance.

The Nasdaq soared 64 to 2350, the S&P rose 30 to 1364, and the Dow surged 256 to 12,619. Volume rose to 4.26 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.15 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancers led by a 28-5 margin on the NYSE, and 21-7 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 85% on the NYSE, and 86% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 136-79 on the NYSE, and 61-122 on the Nasdaq.

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