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Market Preview: Beware Corporate Sellouts

Two big tech names, both blue chips, report after Tuesday's close: Intel (INTC) and IBM (IBM).

Wall Street is looking for earnings of $3.62 a share from Big Blue on revenue of $25.38 billion. Jefferies, which has a hold rating and a $225 price target on the stock, is in line with the consensus view.

"We believe IBM had a strong quarter from software along with System x and System z servers," the firm said. "We estimate that the Services business saw an okay quarter relative to its peers given a tough macro environment. We believe IBM's cloud products are becoming more prominent and will see growth in storage."

With its stock up nearly 14% in 2012 and a streak of eight upside surprises on the line, IBM investors are no doubt expecting a bit more.

As for Intel, expectations are down since the no. 1 chip maker's warning in early September. The average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for a profit of 49 cents a share in the quarter on revenue of $13.23 billion.

In an earnings preview for the semiconductor companies, BMO Capital said even the expectations for fourth-quarter guidance are probably below the published numbers for the group. Here's the firm take on Intel: "[A]lthough estimates have come in a fair bit, we would like to see GM [gross margin] reset for us to begin to get more constructive on the stock. Despite the steady downward revisions, we are still below the Street for 2013 at [earnings of] $2.10 vs. now $2.17." Also slated to open the books after the bell are Apollo Group (APOL), Cree (CREE), CSX Corp. (CSX), Intuitive Surgical (ISRG), Sonic Corp. (SONC), and United Rentals (URI).

Intuitive Surgical's report bears watching after the company was upgraded to overweight at JPMorgan on Monday. The firm also lifted its December 2013 price target on the stock to $625, implying potential appreciation of 22% from Monday's close at $512.53. Share have gained 10.7% year-to-date.

"While there are clearly some headwinds to the Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) story, notably the recent dVP [daVinci procedure] decline and industry-wide European challenges, we find the risk/reward increasingly compelling, in light of the meaningful opportunities emerging in partial nephrectomy, cholecystectomy, colorectal surgery and other areas (thoracic, etc.) - which, collectively, should more than offset the dVP softness and drive upside to Street estimates for the next several years," JPMorgan said.

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