Shares of Intel (INTC 2.46%) jumped 3.6% overnight on Tuesday. It was one of the 10 strongest performers among the S&P 500 (^GSPC 2.47%) on a generally strong market day, and a welcome reversal that erased a week's worth of slumping share prices.
I think you can point to two catalysts for this sudden move, but one is far stronger than the other.
Last night, Intel presented the second version of its Thunderbolt computer connectivity tech. These cables and ports will shuttle data between systems and accessories at 20 gigabits per second, which is twice as fast as the first version and six times faster than the popular USB 3.0 specification. Thunderbolt was developed in cooperation with Apple (AAPL 4.08%) and is a standard feature of modern Mac systems. It's harder to find a standard PC computer sporting Thunderbolt interfaces today, though this drastic speed bump might encourage wider adoption.
So that's the smaller news. Intel shares started the day quietly, as if the Thunderbolt presentation had never happened.
The big driver came later this morning, when Hewlett-Packard (HPQ 5.38%) finally introduced its Moonshot server systems, which promise to put hyper-efficient mobile processors at work in the data center. That product line has been seen as a major threat to Intel, since the rumor mill and early prototypes pointed to ARM Holding (ARMH) providing the basic architecture.
But Moonshot turned out to be an egalitarian product. Yes, ARM chips are coming later this year, but the first systems will run on a new version of Intel's Atom-class mobile chips.
This nearly 4% jump looks like a huge sigh of relief. Mobile processors are indeed about to invade the data center and attack Intel's strongest revenue base, but Intel is spearheading the attack in person. That's worth a $4 billion surge in Intel's market value today.