IBM Says It's a Beautiful World

I am a longtime fan of IBM's (NYSE: IBM  ) global reach. Today, Big Blue reported preliminary fourth-quarter earnings far beyond even the most daring analyst's wildest dreams, and it pinned the blazing performance on -- you guessed it -- its worldwide operations.

CEO Sam Palmisano said the quarter hinged on "the broad scope of IBM's global business -- led by strong operational performance in Asia, Europe, and emerging countries." Even a declining dollar helped, to the tune of $0.04 per share.

But IBM would have shocked the Street even without currency conversion benefits. Earnings of $2.80 per share outstripped the highest of 16 estimates by $0.15 per share. But it's not entirely the analyst gang's fault, as the Armonk, N.Y., giant appeared to surprise even itself. The folks in management have spent all year saying they were "comfortable" with estimates, reaffirming the same party line at every turn.

So how does a company as massive as IBM manage to conceal such brilliant results from everybody? Some might point to the current doom and gloom about the American economy and guess that things aren't as bad as they seem in this neck of the woods. But Palmisano didn't talk about strong domestic results.

Then perhaps it's the global economy, Yankee warts and all, that is on the right track. Governments and enterprises the world over seem to be making plenty of capital-technology expenditures, judging from these results alone. If that's the case, IBM could be the vanguard of an impressive phalanx of tech troops, as other multinational giants such as Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) , and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) would stand to benefit from the same international trends.

And since Palmisano didn't brag about increased market shares or new markets, I'm guessing that we're looking at all boats being lifted by a rising tide. As we're heading into a fresh year-end earnings season, others may see red, but IBM makes me feel black (and blue) all over.

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