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CA sees in-line 4Q

Wall Street breathed a big sigh of relief Thursday after Computer Associates (NYSE: CA) said it expects to report fourth quarter results in line with the consensus analyst estimate of analysts.

Shares of CA shot higher on the news, closing Thursday's regular session at 51 1/2, up 7 for the day.

The business software vendor saw its stock battered earlier this week after the company said it would not issue its fourth quarter report until next week. Analysts were expecting it this week.

Some observers took the delay to be a hint of a fourth quarter disappointment. As of market close Monday, CA's price-to-earnings ratio was 34.7, well below Oracle Corp.'s (Nasdaq: ORCL) P/E of 153. CA's closest rival, BMC Software (Nasdaq: BMCS), has a P/E of about 44.6.

However, CA typically does not provide a formal date for releasing earnings until shortly before the actual report. Other observers said that if CA expected problems, the company would have preannounced earlier.

First Call's survey of 22 analysts predicts CA will report a profit of $1.13 per share for the quarter ended Mar. 31.

CA plans to report fourth quarter and fiscal year-end results on Monday, after market close.

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