HP: The New Dell?

It’s hard to call a few quarters a major trend, but so far HP’s recent turnaround is showing signs of sticking.

And HP’s strong results also suggest that the company may be the cause of at least some of Dell’s recent troubles.

HP reported blow-out quarterly results after the close on Thursday, showing none of the weakness that has plagued rivals in recent months.

HP’s pro forma earnings of 51 cents a share — after backing out restructuring costs — came in a nickel ahead of estimates, and sales of $22.91 billion topped $22.76 billion forecasts. The IT giant’s January quarter guidance of 46 to 48 cents a share was ahead of analysts’ forecast of 44-cent earnings, but sales guidance of $22.3-$22.6 billion was at the low end of $22.61 billion estimates.

“HP delivered another strong quarterly performance, with balanced revenue growth, good cost discipline, improved margins in key businesses and strong cash flow,” HP CEO Mark Hurd said in a statement. “We are pleased with our progress to date, but there is more work ahead of us.”

The results were led by 9% growth in Personal Systems, a 12% increase in server sales, a 17% jump in storage sales, and 11% growth in software. Services were up 6%, and imaging and printing 4%. Within Personal Systems, desktop revenue rose 1%, notebook sales grew 23%, and workstations sales climbed 8%. Overall sales increased 7%.

Shares of HP surged 6% in after-hours trading, on top of a 2.5% gain during the day.

The broader market posted solid results on Thursday, as stocks benefited from a big drop in energy prices and falling interest rates.

The Nasdaq soared 32 to a four-year high of 2220, the S&P 500 rose 11 to 1242, and the Dow gained 45 to 10,720. Volume rose to 2.28 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.87 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancers led 24-8 on the NYSE, and 22-8 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 81% on the NYSE, and 78% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 156-176 on the NYSE, and 123-69 on the Nasdaq.

Google surpassed $400 for the first time. The company’s market cap is now bigger than Cisco’s . Microsoft , Intel and IBM are the only tech stocks with bigger market caps than Google’s $113 billion valuation. Google could conceivably catch IBM’s $137 billion and Intel’s $150 billion valuations, but at nearly $300 billion, Microsoft is still a long way off.

Applied Materials lost 2.4% after the company lowered earnings expectations.

Network Appliance , Intuit , Salesforce.com , Kulicke & Soffa , Micromuse and Ansoft posted strong gains on their results.

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