Sometimes there's a perfectly reasonable explanation when a great company reports a loss. Those are the times when non-GAAP metrics become useful.

So Adobe Systems (NASDAQ:ADBE) reported a net loss in the fourth quarter. Don't panic. The tax man reached in to take an extra cut this time, and he ain't coming back for more.

Backing out a $192 million tax charge mostly related to Adobe's purchase of Web analytics firm Omniture, Adobe's non-GAAP bottom line lands at $0.39 of earnings per share. A year ago, the tax bill was a mere $30 million, and that's closer to where Adobe will dwell in future periods as well.

Adobe's sales grew 8.6% compared to last quarter, or 4.9% if you take away the contributions from Omniture. The company is in a bit of a lull between major product releases, so 5% of organic growth is nothing to sneeze at.

In fact, Adobe is acting as a barometer of IT spending. When companies are buying design and documentation software, you can bet that they're going to spend a bit on systems and other important applications too.

Given that Adobe's fastest-growing segment was the enterprise market, which saw nearly 13% sequential order growth, I think it's safe to say that IT budgets are loosening up at long last. We'll get more data when Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) reports earnings tomorrow, but strong business-to-business results from Adobe are a good sign for big-ticket hardware and software companies like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), IBM (NYSE:IBM), and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ).

Keep Adobe in mind when the next earnings season rolls around in January. This could be your first sign of a stronger IT rebound than anyone expected, and it wouldn't hurt to put your spare cash to work in the tech sector today.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Adobe Systems is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call strategy on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.