NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Intel (INTC) - Get Reportreports after the close Wednesday and analysts have been taking down numbers as late as Tuesday. While we know the PC business is a total wreck, it's the server business that is triggering estimate cuts. To me, fast and furious estimate cuts are a red flag. I would stay away from Intel until the smoke clears.
Tuesday Bernstein cut estimates going into Wednesday's earnings announcement. Analyst Stacy Rasgon took his estimates down last week after several reports of weak PC sales. (Not a shocker!)
But Tuesday he cut estimates again and cited the revenue shortfall at QLogic (QLGC) as an indicator of weak server chip sales at Intel. ASpeed Technologies, a Taiwanese maker of systems on a chip, SoCs, which are used in servers, said its revenue fell 15% sequentially.
According to Rasgon's analysis, changes in both suppliers' revenues have a correlation with changes in Intel's data center revenue. I saw the report and I thought the correlation is pretty low. It's always risky to read too much into the supply chain, but both companies reported a 15% sequential drop in revenue. That has to be a pretty scary number for Intel bulls.
Intel is expected to report a weak second quarter. The consensus has modeled revenue of $13,043 billion, down 5.69%. Gross margins of 61.82% would be below last years 64.5%. Operating margin will be down substantially. Last year Intel reported an operating margin of 27.8%. This year, it could come in around 23%. Ouchy!
Breaking it down, most analysts say data center revenue will be $3.9 billion, up 12.7%. Last quarter, the data center group was up 19.1% (and down 10.1% sequentially). Third-quarter guidance will be key. The September and December quarters are expected to rise 15% and 11%, respectively. For the year, data center revenue is supposed to be up 14.5% to $16.5 billion. The data center group will be 30% of total revenue by the end of the year, up from 25.8% last year.
We know the PC business is tough. First quarter, PC revenue fell 8.2% to $7.4 billion. The bleeding won't stop in the second or third quarter, either. Second-quarter and third-quarter revenue will probably be down 16.2% and 16.5%, respectively. For the year, the PC business will be down 13.5% to $30 billion. By the time its all over, the PC business will still be 56% of Intel's overall revenue (down from 62.4% last year).
Intel investors are a bullish lot and like to ignore disappointment and look ahead. For the third quarter, the consensus has modeled revenue of $14,083 billion (-3.2%) and earnings of 56 cents. If things work out, the year will end down just 2% to $54.7 billion.
Most analysts have price targets around $33, but it to get there, Intel better start pumping out some positive surprises. If Bernstein Research is right and the data center experiences a slowdown, it will be Intel bulls who will be cutting next years' estimates fast and furiously. I would avoid the stock until the smoke clears.