NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Intel Corp. posted a first-quarter profit and revenue that beat Wall Street expectations on Tuesday, as the world's largest microchip maker became the first major technology company to report results for the period.
Intel (INTC, Fortune 500) earned a profit of $2.4 billion, or 43 cents per share, during the three months ended March 27. That's almost four times what the Santa Clara, Calif., company reported for the first quarter of 2009, amid the downturn.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the chip giant to earn 38 cents per share.
Intel's quarterly sales rose 44% to $10.3 billion, the highest the company has ever reported for its first quarter of the year. The revenue also topped analysts' forecast of $9.8 billion.
Revenue for Intel's PC unit rose 43% from a year earlier, but remained flat compared to a quarter earlier. Higher average selling prices were offset by volume declines, Intel chief financial officer Stacy Smith said.
Within the unit, Smith said Intel's mobile microprocessor sales reached record highs thanks to to robust demand for notebooks.
Improved sales and higher prices lifted revenue for Intel's data center group, which includes products for servers, by 48% compared to the first quarter of 2009. Sales fell 8% from the fourth quarter, but Smith said corporate demand is returning.
"Even though unit volume is lower, that product mix is richer and that will drive future earnings," said Kevin Cassidy, an analyst at Thomas Weisel Partners. "Intel sold chips for higher-end notebooks and servers, which indicates that the recession is ending and people can afford more."
Cassidy was also impressed with Intel's gross margin, a closely watched measure and stock-mover for the company. It rose to 63.4% from 46% a year earlier.
Shares of Intel jumped almost 4% on the news in after-hours trading, after climbing 1% during regular hours.
"The investments we're making in leading-edge technology are delivering the most compelling product lineup in our history," Intel chief executive Paul Otellini said in a written statement. "These leadership products, combined with worldwide demand and continued outstanding execution, resulted in Intel's best first quarter ever."
Intel's performance helps investors gauge the health of the technology sector, since the tech bellwether provides chips used in computers and servers.
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