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HP: Can Things Get Any Worse?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- HP (HPQ - Get Report) reports first-quarter results after the market close. Wall Street is wondering whether things can get any worse for the struggling PC maker.

"To put it bluntly ... this story has been an unmitigated train wreck and it seems every time management speaks to the Street, there is new negative information forthcoming," wrote Brian Marshall, an analyst at ISI Group, in a note. "We can no longer recommend investors buy shares of HP at current levels as negative information continues to pour out, the end is not sight and we no longer understand what we are 'playing for.'"

Marshall was alluding last quarter's $8.8 billion Autonomy writedown, the previous quarter's $10.8 billion EDS writedown, as well as the company's misalignment of enterprise service revenue to costs.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are looking for HP to report first-quarter revenue of $27.79 billion and earnings of 71 cents a share, down from $30 billion and 92 cents a share a year earlier.

For the fiscal second quarter, Wall Street expects revenue of $27.96 billion and earnings of 77 cents a share.

The market for PC makers is the worst it's ever been. Earlier this week, for example, rival Dell (DELL) discussed a tough PC pricing environment when it reported fourth-quarter results.

"Dell was clear that pricing aggression in the PC industry continues, while demand in 'growth' markets remains relatively lackluster," wrote Jim Suva, an analyst at Citi Research, in a note. "We believe both of these issues should also be headwinds for HP." video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Brian White, an analyst at Topeka Capital Markets, expects HP to face weaker-than-average first-quarter seasonality, with all of the company's business segments suffering a sequential sales decline.

Recent years have been turbulent at HP, marked by a succession of CEOs, poor execution of strategy and a lack of direction. Former eBay (EBAY) chief Meg Whitman took over from the ousted Leo Apotheker in 2011 and has since launched a massive restructuring effort, as she attempts to turn the company's fortunes around.

Last year, Whitman described fiscal 2013 a "fix and rebuild" year. "Recovery and expansion," "acceleration," and "industry-leading competition" will characterize the years 2014 through 2016, according to the CEO.

Investors, though, are still uneasy about HP. The company's shares have tumbled more than 42% over the past 12 months, even after the stock's recent rally.

With negative sentiment continuing to swirl around HP, Topeka's White warns there could be more pain ahead. "We believe HP's turnaround will take time to play out and will test the patience of investors," he wrote.

Topeka has a "sell" rating on HP.

HP shares were flat at $16.70 during Thursday's trading.

-- Written by James Rogers in New York

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