When Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), the No. 1 chipmaker, reports second-quarter results after the market closes on Tuesday, the real numbers investors may await are those in the company's forecast rather than the actual results.
The reason why there may be greater emphasis on the forecast than the quarterly results is that the global pace for sales of PCs and laptops is easing, and demand for Intel's new line of Ultrabook chips for mobile platforms may be less than expected. The new line is intended to compete against chips used in iPads from Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), the world's most valuable technology company.
The Santa Clara, Calif.-based semiconductor giant is expected to report that net income eased slightly to $2.70 billion, or 52 cents a share, compared to $2.95 billion, or 54 cents a year ago. Revenue is expected to rise about 4 percent to $13.57 billion.
Analysts surveyed by Reuters have trimmed their estimates by about 2 cents a share since July 1.
Last week, market researchers at both IDC and Gartner (NYSE: IT) said second-quarter PC and laptop shipments had not been as strong as had been forecast. Gartner said global PC shipments were only 87.4 million, down about 100,000 from a year ago.
We're seeing a mix-master of business conditions from the semiconductor companies, said Dan Scovel, of Tokeneke Research.
We've taken our Q3 numbers for Intel down, said Stacy Rasgon of Alliance Bernstein, who trimmed his full-year earnings forecast to $2.44 from $2.48, while maintaining a market perform rating on the shares.
Intel CEO Paul Otellini may well lower the company's forecast for the rest of the year. Intel shares fell 12 cents to $25.13 on Monday, trimming the gain in 2012 to only 3.6 percent.
To be sure, there are several very promising prospects on the horizon: Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), the world's biggest software company will finally introduce Windows 8, which is expected to unleash a new round of PC buying, especially in the corporate market.
Intel plans to make new inroads in the mobile phone market, especially with its Atom chips.
Detroit, which uses more chips than ever, has reported stronger-than-expected sales for June, a pattern that could continue into the second half.
So the real nugget could be the forecast the company offers for third-quarter gains, as well as for the full year. Analysts expect third-quarter net income to rise to $3.37 billion, or 53 cents a share, with fourth-quarter net jumping to $3.87 billion, or 75 cents, on a mix of Windows 8 and holiday sales.
Rival chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) previously cut its earnings estimate, blaming weak demand in China and Europe for slower sales. It warned net income might fall as much as 11 percent from a year ago.
By contrast, some analysts, such as Cody Acree, of Williams Financial, said Intel may have cut prices to gain share, especially for the Ultrabook line. PC makers including Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and China's Lenovo Group (Pink: LNVGY), the No. 1 and 2 PC makers, have introduced Ultrabook laptops.