Wall Street Beat: Red Hat, Oracle cheer IT investors

As the first half of 2009 comes to a close, the big question for tech companies is whether the recession will ease up enough to spur spending increases for IT by the end of the year.

Signals continue to be mixed. Companies reporting financial results, including Oracle and Red Hat, as well as a slightly more cheerful hardware report by Gartner, helped spur IT investors this week even as dire signs of the recession continue to pop up.

On the macroeconomic front, the Department of Labor said Thursday that the number of those receiving new unemployment claims for the week ending June 20 rose to 627,000, representing the largest number of initial claims since May. Also Thursday, the Commerce Department said first-quarter GDP (gross domestic product) shrunk 5.5 percent, compared to a forecast last month of 5.7 percent.

Overall, tech seems to be generating more enthusiasm among investors than other sectors of the economy. The tech-heavy Nasdaq hit a seven-year low on March 9, but in the past three months, it has risen 13.4 percent, better than other sectors.

Part of the reason may be that some industry watchers feel tech spending, led by business-savvy IT executives, is poised to rise in the second half of the year.

IT professionals spent years after the dot-com bust wringing every last excess penny out of old technology cost structures. Now, some of the more far-sighted IS managers have put in place plans to implement "transformational" IT projects involving virtualization and cloud computing, according to Bob Dvorak, senior vice president and general manager at Forsythe Technology, which works with Fortune 500 clients.