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Cisco Long on Hope, Short on Outlook

(Updates Cisco stock information)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Cisco (CSCO - Get Report) is warming up the band for perhaps another penny beat , but Wall Street has its ears attuned to the outlook.

The networking gearmaker will report fiscal first-quarter earnings after the bell Wednesday, and investors will be listening keenly for assurance that the economy is stabilizing and tech spending is improving.

But don't set your hopes too high. The outlook for tech and the broader economy continues to be blurry, and though CEO John Chambers enjoys playing an economist on earnings calls with analysts, he may opt, like his tech peers, to hold off on any long-range predictions.

"While CEO Chambers should sound more optimistic on the recovery, given improving order trends, most of Cisco's large-cap tech peers avoided providing any meaningful commentary on 2010," Bill Choi of Jefferies wrote in a research note Tuesday.

"Similarly, we do not expect 2010 outlook from Cisco," Choi writes.

Cisco is expected to deliver a solid fiscal first-quarter performance. Analysts are expecting an adjusted profit of 31 cents a share, which is down from 42 cents in the year-ago period. Sales are expected to be $8.74 billion, down 15% from the $10.33 billion level last year.

If Chambers sounds optimistic on the earnings call, it could be in part because the company will have made it through the fiscal first quarter, one of Cisco's seasonally weakest. Cisco also has a handful of new products that position it well going into the year end and next year.
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