After the close of trading today, Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) is slated to slip into the earnings confessional, where it will finally provide the Street with its financial results for the last quarter.
Zacks reports that analysts are predicting a profit of 24 cents per share, which is down 40 percent from its year-ago profit of 40 cents per share. During the past 90 days, that estimate has inched slightly higher from an average consensus estimate of 23 cents per share. Zacks also states that Intel has missed the consensus estimate only once during the past four quarters.
Meanwhile, Yahoo! Finance puts that average analyst estimate at 25 cents per share, and the consensus revenue estimate at $9.44 billion.
And just to keep things interesting, WhisperNumber.com has the average earnings estimate for the chip giant at 28 cents per share.
However, many traders have their doubts about the company. Last week, Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ: AMD) warned that it would fall short of its fourth-quarter financial targets. The chip company stated that revenue for the quarter will be about $1.37 billion, or up three percent from $1.33 billion of the third quarter, excluding its acquisition of ATI Technologies. The firm stated that quarterly gross margin and operating income were affected by significantly lower average selling prices for microprocessors.
Many investors have begun to wonder if the pricing war between AMD and Intel will also have an impact on earnings from the number-one chip maker.
Heading into the earnings report, options players have grown more skeptical. The stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio rests at 0.53, and is higher than 70 percent of the readings taken during the past 52 weeks. In other words, speculators have been more bearisly aligned toward the shares only 30 percent of the time during the past year.
The preference for puts can also be seen in implied volatility readings of the equity's options. The January 20 put currently has an implied volatility reading of 47 percent compared to the January 22.50 call, which has a much lower implied of 37 percent. This negative skew indicates that put demand has been higher than call demand.
On the other hand, Wall Street has been reluctant to shed it optimistic outlook for Intel. Zacks reports that 15 of the 29 analysts following the firm rate it a strong buy, while another four give it a buy rating. Out of the 29 ratings, just one comes in at a sell. This configuration leaves ample room for downgrades should the company issue a lackluster report.
And if the past shows anything, downgrades are a definite possibility. When AMD warned on January 12, the firm received no fewer than five downgrades that day.
From a technical perspective, the stock is facing some staunch resistance at the 22.50 level even if the company does succeed in reporting strong earnings after the close today. This level halted the stock's rally attempt on November 17, resulting in a sharp pullback in the shares.
Furthermore, the 22.50 strike is the site of peak call open interest in the January series, with more than 275,000 contracts in residence. This accumulation is bullish bets could serve as a staunch layer of options-related resistance during the near term.