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4 Tech Giants Searching for Upside

Stocks in this article: AAPL INTC IBM QCOM

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Tech earnings season got off to a rocky start with Google's (GOOG) mixed earnings report, and investors are bracing this week for a round of big-tech quarterly postings that are likely to be tinged by continued weak PC sales and worries of supplies coming out of Japan.

The tech giants scheduled to report this week are Apple (AAPL) (Wednesday), Intel (INTC) (Tuesday), IBM (IBM) (Tuesday) and Qualcomm (QCOM) (Wednesday).

Weakness in the global PC market could pose challenges for Intel, but CEO Paul Otellini remains bullish.

Last week, research firm IDC noted that the global PC market contracted during last quarter, the first such shrinkage since the recession. Fuel and commodity prices, combined with the impact of the Japanese earthquake, contributed to a 3.2% decline, said IDC, which had predicted growth of 1.5% compared to the prior year's quarter.

"IDC's mention of weaker-than-expected commercial demand may trigger incremental investor concern, in our view," said Bill Shope, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, in a note released last week.

Goldman was looking for the PC market to grow 6.4% year-over-year in 2011, although Shope admits that this forecast may now be optimistic. "We recently noted that a 0% PC unit growth rate was possible for 2011, and data from the first quarter of 2011 has now made this a much more probable scenario to consider."

Fluctuations in the PC market could spell trouble for Intel, in particular, and have already prompted a number of analysts to lower their estimates for the No. 1 semiconductor company.

A downturn in consumer spending, a trend noted by both Cisco (CSCO) and HP (HPQ) last quarter, could potentially dent Qualcomm and Apple this week. A bigger challenge for Apple -- and the rest of the tech sector -- is getting hold of components in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake.

For IBM, convincing investors that there is plenty of runway ahead for its shares may be the biggest hurdle, even if it reports a solid set of results.

Read on for more details on what to expect from Apple, Intel, IBM and Qualcomm's earnings.

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