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OK, so it's a one-cent beat, but still. Hewlett-Packard Corp. (HPQ - Analyst Report), the computer manufacturing giant, posted $1.01 per share in its fiscal Q4 earnings after the bell Tuesday, on revenues of $29.1 billion. This topped the Zacks consensus estimates of $1.00 and $28.0 billion in the quarter.

This is clearly welcome news to after-market traders. After selling off a few pennies in regular Tuesday trading Hewlett-Packard shares are up roughly 8% as of now in the after-market. Not too shabby considering HPQ is up nearly 77% year-to-date even before this bull run. Also consider that both top and bottom lines are down year over year -- 13% on earnings and 3% on sales.

H-P is still going through a multi-year process of righting the ship, and CEO Meg Whitman cited "improved execution" and "strong cost management" to post the company's third positive earnings surprise in the past four quarters. Whitman mentioned also the recovery at H-P remains "on track."

Also consider this company is trading at a 12-month-trailing multiple under 5x earnings currently; seemingly, this is a good value play for investors encouraged by the positive surprises.

But with Enterprise Services and Software sales each down 9% year over year, and Financial Services down another 6%, plenty of questions remain as to the long-term trajectory of H-P. These are generally the same issues currently facing IBM (IBM - Analyst Report) and Microsoft (MSFT - Analyst Report), in that the dwindling PC market must be dealt with by growing elsewhere. But these companies are behemoths; they're aircraft carriers -- turning them around is no walk in the park.

Enterprise spending will be a major factor going forward, of course, but the biggest challenge for H-P will be its ability to gain a foothold in new technology usages. Currently, Microsoft is doing more in cloud computing, for instance.

Analysts had been mixed in Q4 and fiscal 2013 estimates. H-P retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) as well as a longer-term Neutral recommendation.

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