Dell Delivers

Dell gave Wall Street some comforting news after the close on Wednesday, saying its first quarter remains on track.

Ahead of the company’s annual meeting on Thursday, Dell reaffirmed guidance the company gave during its quarterly earnings report on Feb. 10. With a few weeks left in the quarter, Dell said it is on track to meet analysts’ expectations for earnings of 37 cents a share on revenues of $13.4 billion.

Dell also said it plans to spend $2 billion to repurchase stock during the current quarter, more than double the company’s initial expectation. Over the past four years, stock buybacks have reduced weighted average shares outstanding by more than 9 percent, Dell said. That translates into higher earnings per share and more value for shareholders.

Dell said CEO Kevin Rollins will discuss the company’s goal of reaching $80 billion in sales within three to four years.

“Our growth and profitability are based on a disciplined approach to defining new product and service categories, accelerating growth in existing businesses, and extending the value we create for customers in all of those areas,” Rollins said in a statement.

Dell’s growth plans emphasize four technology areas: network servers, storage systems, printing and imaging, and mobile computing, as well as enhanced services to help customers get the most from those products.

The news was good enough to send shares of Dell 1% higher after hours, reassuring investors who saw an early rally fade by the close.

The Nasdaq slipped fractionally to 1999, the S&P 500 added 2 to 1184, and the Dow climbed 27 to 10,486. Volume declined to 1.8 billion shares on the NYSE, but rose to 1.75 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancers led 19-13 on the NYSE, and 16-14 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 57% on the NYSE, and 40% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 94-20 on the NYSE, and 75-98 on the Nasdaq.

MCI rose on reports that Qwest may raise its offer for the company once again, after another rejection from MCI.

Research in Motion fell 2% on sales and guidance that weren’t quite up to Wall Street’s expectations.

IBM slipped on news that the company will expense stock options.

Autodesk climbed 4% after the company raised guidance.

Siebel fell 10% on a warning.

Cablevision lost 3.5% on reports that the company may make a bid for Adelphia.

Network Appliance gained 4.6% on a partnership with IBM.

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