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In the third quarter of 2012, and the first of 2013, IBM did not raise its full-year earnings per share target. For a company defined by its steady financial results, this was a big deal.
IBM had spooled out one raised forecast after another for uncountable quarters before then. The market was unsettled by this, and by a downward drift in pre-tax profits. And, the shares have underperformed the market significantly since April.
Well, thank goodness that is over. When IBM delivered its second-quarter earnings on Wednesday afternoon, its 2013 target was raised. Pre-tax income growth perked up slightly, too, helped by performance in the software business. It would be churlish to point out that the target was upped just 1 per cent. Such incremental increases are standard IBM fare. In late trading, IBM's beleaguered shares rose 2 per cent, before closing 0.36 per cent ahead.
IBM is still labouring to stay on pace for the double-digit earnings per share growth that has defined it historically, and is depending too heavily on buybacks to get there.
But the company seems to have regained just a shade of its former steadiness, which is most welcome.