Sun Surprises

Sun Microsystems late Monday delivered a profit report that was better than Wall Street analysts had hoped for, sending its shares 10% higher in late trading.

Sales were up slightly from the year-ago quarter to $3.84 billion, in line with expectations, but it was on the bottom line where Sun really shone. The company’s earnings of $329 million, or 9 cents a share, reversed a year-ago loss of $301 million and were 4 cents better than analysts expected.

“With a solid strategy and consistent execution, we delivered on our commitment to achieve at least 4 percent operating margin in the fourth quarter. This milestone marks significant progress toward our longer-term growth plan of at least 10 percent operating margin for the full fiscal year 2009,” CEO Jonathan Schwartz said in a statement. “The Solaris 10 Operating System continues to fuel opportunity for us and our partners, allowing customers to leverage built-in virtualization to harvest more value from their datacenters, without the unnecessary expense of separate software licenses.”

Sun also said it sees low-to-mid single-digit sales growth in the year ahead, potentially better than 3.8% estimates.

Sun’s better than expected earnings report capped a solid day for stocks, which began their recovery from their worst week since March 2003.

Rural Cellular soared on a takeover offer from Verizon Wireless.

BMC edged higher on a $1 billion share buyback.

But ValueClick tumbled 19% on disappointing results and guidance.

The Nasdaq climbed 21 to 2583, the S&P 500 gained 15 to 1473, and the Dow rose 92 to 13,358. Volume declined to 4.01 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.4 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancing issues led by a 20-12 margin on the NYSE, and 17-13 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 75% on the NYSE, and 68% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 24-431 on the NYSE, and 69-315 on the Nasdaq.

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