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Tech Industry

THE WEEK AHEAD: All eyes on Intel

    Yahoo and AMD led the vanguard this week. Now the bulk of earnings season will come into view.

    Notable tech companies reporting include: Novellus Systems (Nasdaq: NVLS) and Applied Micro Circuits (Nasdaq: AMCC) on Monday; Motorola (NYSE: MOT) and Seagate Technology (NYSE: SEG) on Tuesday; Altera (Nasdaq: ALTR) and Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL) on Wednesday; Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM), Iomega (NYSE: IOM), KLA-Tencor (Nasdaq: KLAC), PMC-Sierra (Nasdaq: PMCS), Quantum Corp.'s Hard Disk Drive (NYSE: HDD) and DLT and Storage (NYSE: DSS), Rambus (Nasdaq: RMBS) and Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW) on Thursday.

    Whew.

    Oh, and some chip company named Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) reports third quarter results Tuesday.

    Some of the aforementioned companies already gave Wall Street an idea of what to expect, so they shouldn't make too many waves. But Intel will set the tone for the markets; its quarterly results can move the entire technology sector.

    Intel

    First Call's survey of 27 analysts predicts third quarter net income of 57 cents per share for the world's largest maker of PC chips. During its last earnings conference call, Intel told observers to expect results in line with historical norms, although analysts were mixed on what that actually meant.

    In some ways, it hardly matters what Intel actually reports for the third quarter, because Wall Street always wants to know what the chipmaker sees in the future. The second quarter response was typical: Intel missed estimates, but the stock went up anyway, because Intel executives predicted a strong second half.

    Speaking of the second half, U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray analyst Ashok Kumar this week slightly lowered his growth expectations for Intel, although at 60 cents per share, his third quarter earnings estimate remains above Wall Street consensus. Intel's unit shipments increased about 20 percent from the second quarter, to 30 million units, estimates the oft-quoted Kumar. "Modest" price decreases should result in revenue of about $7.3 billion, up 8 percent sequentially, Kumar says. That estimate includes about $180 million related to recent acquisitions Dialogic and Level One.

    Year-over-year, Kumar sees third quarter shipments rising a stronger-than-normal 25 percent year-over-year, largely thanks to consumer strength and market share gains. As the year progresses, Kumar also expects Intel's Coppermine chip will help the company regain market share lost to Advanced Micro Devices in the notebook market. "This should also help arrest the ASP slide," Kumar writes.

    Although the Taiwanese earthquake stopped production there for about two weeks, don't worry too much, he says. "Bottom line, the PC supply chain is in synch to support the seasonal strength in the December quarter," writes Kumar, who has a "strong buy, aggressive" rating on Intel.

    Motorola

    Analysts see positive earnings news from the other major chipmaker weighing in next week.

    Armed with a potent lineup of new wireless phones and an upswing in semiconductor demand, telecommunications and technology company Motorola will likely post third quarter profits on Tuesday that easily surpass last year's earnings, analysts said Friday.

    However, Iridium, the financially troubled global satellite phone company that Motorola bankrolled, may continue to weigh on investor sentiment.

    "It's possible that some kind of charge for Iridium will occur," said Larry Borgman, an analyst with Josephthal & Co. "That's been a problem area for them for a long time."

    Still, Borgman and others said Motorola's core businesses were strong, aided by strong sales of its newest phone handsets and a cyclical upturn in semiconductor demand. Motorola's paging unit, however, has suffered from the success or wireless phones, which have cannibalized demand for pagers.

    "They've got a lot of strength in semiconductors and their hand-held phones are doing well," Borgman said. "They've got a good lineup of new products that are helping them a lot."

    More economic data

    The markets quickly got over a brief nervous tremor this week after the Federal Open Market Committee decided to leave interest rates unchanged, but with a bias toward tightening. But reports coming out near the end of the upcoming week will give Wall Street more reasons to argue about inflation signs.

    Thursday will see monthly reports on retail sales and import/export prices. Friday comes a pair of closely watched indicators, the Producer Price Index and the University of Michigan's consumer confidence survey. If manufacturer prices rose, stocks probably will tremble. The consumer survey, while not a proven barometer by any means, is often scrutinized for clues as to retailers will fare during the upcoming holiday season.

    -- Reuters contributed to this report>