How far has mighty Intel ( INTC) fallen? Wall Street is so tepid about the giant chipmaker's immediate prospects that most analysts say the company would have to work hard to disappoint when it reports third-quarter results after Tuesday's closing bell. "Anything other than a worst-case scenario should result in stock-price appreciation," says Merrill Lynch analyst Joseph Osha, whose firm does not have an investment banking relationship with Intel. Osha has plenty of company. Wall Street figures that Intel is likely to post an in-line quarter, but there's not a lot of chatter about a large surprise to the upside, or to the downside, for that matter. Indeed, EPS expectations of the 27 analysts polled by Thomson First Call are clustered in a very narrow range -- from a low of 32 cents to a high of 35 cents, with consensus at 33 cents. Revenue, analysts estimate, should come in at $9.92 billion. Intel said in September that it expects gross margins to come in slightly above 60%. "I think expectations are fairly low coming into the call. If management is able to guide gross margins up sequentially for the fourth quarter of 2005, I would expect the stock to react positively," said Loomis Sayles analyst Rich Crable, whose company holds shares of Intel. The world's largest semiconductor company has had a painful year in the market; its stock has been up and down, but it has appreciated just 3% since Dec. 31, closing Monday ahead 23 cents to $23.46. Rival Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD), which has scored a number of technological and marketing "beats," is doing somewhat better, up 8% on the year, and the widely followed Philadelphia Semiconductor Index has gained 10%. The low share price, of course, has pushed Intel's valuation way down, which is another reason investors are likely to view even half-decent results with some favor.