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Tech shows life after Salesforce, Splunk results

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Technology may not be dead after all.

Following a miserable first six weeks of the year, tech stocks got a big lift last week as Salesforce.com, Splunk and Palo Alto Networks reported better-than-expected results and revived confidence in software spending.

The Nasdaq climbed almost 2 percent over the past five trading days, leaving the index down just slightly in February.

While still suffering heavy losses in 2016, software investors were given a confidence boost on Wednesday when Salesforce not only raised its annual earnings guidance but, more importantly, the company said it sees no signs of an economic slowdown.

That's important because earlier this month, Tableau Software tanked the cloud software market after warning of "some softness in spending" on the same day that LinkedIn cited weakness in the European and Asian regions.

"Now we read the same newspapers as everybody else. We're not seeing an economic impact," Salesforce Chief Financial Officer Mark Hawkins said on the earnings call, in response to a question about the macro environment.

Shares of San Francisco-based Salesforce jumped 12 percent last week, while Splunk, located a mile away, surged 19 percent. For the year, they remain down 11 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Splunk, whose software helps businesses make sense of the mounds of data flowing through their servers and apps, exceeded expectations for earnings and outlook.

The company was asked by an analyst what it's seeing in terms of IT spending, given negative comments from other businesses in recent weeks.

"Within our Splunk sales cycles, we're not seeing that," said CEO Douglas Merritt. "In many cases ... [customers are] seeming to prioritize spend for Splunk right now."

Last week's rally

Security vendor Palo Alto Networks rallied 16 percent last week on a rosy revenue outlook, cutting in half the stock's loss for the year.

Questioned about the global economy, CEO Mark McLaughlin told analysts about his travels in January to Europe and Asia.

"The customers that I talked with said that security remains a priority spend item for them," he said. "We haven't seen anything to indicate that what we're seeing in the stock market means anything about the macro economy yet."

Read MoreGrowth of Palo Alto Networks

Not all tech results were uplifting, however. Fitbit, the maker of fitness tracking devices, tumbled 22 percent last week and is down almost 60 percent for the year.

After a splashy IPO in June, the San Francisco-based company has struggled to meet growth expectations and is now bolstering spending on marketing and research and development.

Five analysts downgraded their ratings, according to FactSet, including Piper Jaffray's Erinn Murphy, who lowered her recommendation to neutral.

"While there are long-term positives around FIT's role in the digital health arena, some of these benefits are still intangible and we need to see better visibility on sell-through of new product and consumer engagement," Murphy wrote.

Fitbit's issues are specific to the company and the challenges of the increasingly competitive smartwatch market.

Enterprise is an entirely different story.

Within that realm, technology companies that are viewed as critical to their customers are showing their ability to withstand market volatility, said John Dillon, former CEO of Salesforce and a 30-year industry veteran.

"They may experience the downdraft or the headwinds, but they're not going out of business," said Dillon, who now runs database start-up Aerospike. For the most important applications, "customers may be slowing spending but they're not stopping it."