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Intel Catches the Drift

In a likely indication of the drift to come, Intel (INTC) shares slid back to their late-summer lows Friday after the company confirmed ongoing supply issues and said business was merely following expected seasonal increases.

The update late Thursday from the world's largest chipmaker failed to motivate investors to significantly change their stance on the stock. Shares were down recently almost 3% to $25.32, but this simply returned Intel to a three-month low logged a week ago.

Intel said Thursday it is still on pace to book sales growth in the third quarter that will surpass growth logged during the first two quarters of the year. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company also cited ongoing strength in the notebook computer market, as well as the overall computing market.

Specifically, Intel narrowed its third-quarter sales goal to between $9.8 billion and $10 billion, maintaining its original targeted midpoint of $9.9 billion, and said gross margins will likely be slightly above 60%.

Analysts' estimates didn't change much in the wake of the update, with the consensus sales target still pegged at $9.92 billion, according to Thomson First Call. The earnings target slipped to 35 cents a share from 36 cents ahead of the update as some analysts took into account a higher tax bill for the quarter.

Intel's stock retreat on Friday continued its pullback of the past seven weeks, as investors remain suspicious of Intel's ability to keep improving financial results, most notably its gross margins. While the latest update did nothing to dispel that idea, it hasn't put a damper on the significance of the months ahead.

Still, there was a sense that the near term will be lacking for investors expecting actionable grist. Even Intel's chief financial officer was blase about the results. "This is pretty much a non-news update," said Andy Bryant during a conference call late Thursday.

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