Dell Comes Up Short

Dell shares slipped in late trading Thursday after the company’s sales came in well below Wall Street expectations.

Because of ongoing accounting issues, Dell only released preliminary results for its fiscal fourth quarter, following a warning in late January.

Dell’s earnings of 30 cents a share were a penny ahead of estimates, but a 5% year-over-year sales decline to $14.4 billion left the company $500 million short of analysts’ estimates.

“We are disappointed with the company’s results, but what matters is our future plan of action. We are systematically moving to increase efficiencies, improve execution and transform the company,” Chairman and CEO Michael Dell said in a statement. “Our business model will become more aligned with the needs of our customers, which will improve their experience and yield improved growth and profitability for the long-term.”

Server unit shipments were up 2%, but mobility and desktop revenues declined. Dell said it expects that “growth and margins will continue to be under pressure” for several quarters as it implements turnaround plans. Gross margins of 17.1% were better than expected, however.

Dell also added 3,500 employees in the quarter, disappointing those who were looking for cost cuts.

Dell shares declined 1.5% in late trading.

Stocks managed to climb back from another steep decline during Thursday’s trading session, as traders fretted that stocks would come under additional pressure from borrowers forced to liquidate positions to pay back Japanese “carry trade” loans. A stronger than expected national manufacturing report helped stem losses, but stocks still ended the day lower.

Hyperion soared on a buyout offer from Oracle .

Ciena , Avocent , Sonus and 24/7 Media fell on their results, while Smith Micro soared on its earnings.

SAP and Motorola gained on news of private investments.

Apple rose 3% on a Lehman Brothers upgrade.

Nortel lost 2% after reporting more accounting problems.

The Nasdaq fell 12 to 2404, the S&P 500 lost 3 to 1403, and the Dow shed 34 to 12,234. Volume declined to 3.87 billion shares on the NYSE, but rose to 2.82 billion on the Nasdaq. Declining issues led by a 19-13 margin on the NYSE, and 20-10 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 64% on the NYSE, and 73% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 88-62 on the NYSE, and 63-114 on the Nasdaq.

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