IBM has reported first-quarter earnings of $22.9 billion (£14.9 billion) in revenue, a rise of five per cent, , over the same period last year. Net profit was $2.6 billion, a jump of 13 per cent.

Net income was $2.6 billion (£1.7 billion), a jump of 13 per cent.

The company also raised its full-year earnings guidance for fiscal 2010 to at least $11.20 per share.

Software license sales, a key sign of business health, grew 11 percent to $5 billion in the first quarter.

Some software categories performed better than others. Revenue from IBM's WebSphere middleware products grew 13 per cent, and sales of Tivoli management software jumped 23 per cent, IBM said. But sales of its Lotus collaboration software increased by only one percent. Revenue from Rational development tools climbed seven per cent.

In an indication more customers are embarking on large-scale projects as the global recession eases, IBM also said it had signed 13 services contracts greater than $100 million in value. Total services revenues rose four per cent to $13.7 billion.

But Big Blue's hardware business had mixed results. Revenue for the Systems and Technology division was up five per cent to $3.4 billion, helped by a 36 per cent jump in System x sales. But System z and Power system revenues both fell 17 per cent.

The company's performance in Q1 can be attributed partly to improved efficiency, Chief Financial Officer Mark Loughridge said during a conference call with analysts Monday.

IBM incurred $560 million in expenses during the quarter for "workforce rebalancing," a phrase it uses to refer to job cuts. That was up significantly from $265 million in the same period last year. The most recent cuts will yield "substantial" savings for IBM in later quarters, Loughridge said.

The company hopes to see a boost in its hardware sales later this year with the release of its next System z mainframe platform, he added.

IBM's size and scope make it a bellwether for the health of IT spending and the economy overall. There are signs that both are on the rebound, according to Loughridge.

IBM's growth this quarter was fairly uniform across geographies, and the company is seeing customers take on "transformational" projects, he said.

However, "as to whether we're back to normal IT spend, that's a longer-term view of the world," he said.