Intel Cut at J.P. Morgan

It drops the shares to neutral on expected weak notebook sales.
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J.P. Morgan weighed in negatively on

Intel's

(INTC) - Get Report

current quarter Monday, predicting the chip giant won't be able to raise guidance this week because of weak notebook sales.

The downgrade from buy to neutral is the latest in what has become a quarterly parade of research in the run-up to Intel's midquarter update, which is scheduled for Thursday. With shares down close to 20% since early January,

opinion has been split about the company's near-term prospects.

J.P. Morgan's call was based on channel checks that suggest bookings have been soft.

"We have yet to see any meaningful improvement in the notebook segment, as we are still expecting a 13% quarter-over-quarter decline in Taiwanese notebook shipments during the first quarter of 2004, well below the normal seasonal decline of 5%," the brokerage wrote. "As a result, we believe Intel will not raise guidance during its mid-quarter update for the first time in almost a year."

Intel previously said first-quarter sales should fall between $7.9 billion and $8.5 billion, with gross margin of about 60%, plus or minus 2 percentage points. Analysts are looking for earnings of 28 cents per share on sales of $8.3 billion.

The shares were recently trading at $28.93, down 27 cents, or 1%.