In case you ever wonder why The Business Press Maven is disdainful, dripping with scorn and bile, this morning might explain it. I woke up to the displeasure of two headlines on Intel (INTC) that conveyed opposite things.And guess what? Both managed to be wrong. If someone can ever end my misery, I'd be much obliged. On Tuesday, the world's largest chipmaker reported its third-quarter earnings. Here's what we read from the Associated Press early this morning: " Intel expects profits to hold up in 4Q: Intel forecast of steady 4Q profits in uncertain economy helps buoy stock." Got that? Intel is apparently confident, in a perfectly steady-as-she-goes way that few others are, about the near-term future. Lest you think the headline pulled out a thread of the article that did not exist, the same notion is front and center in the article's lead: "Intel Corp. has provided some insight into the state of global PC demand, telling Wall Street that while technology spending may be slumping, the chip maker fully expects its profits to hold steady." Fully expects its profits to hold steady? Got that? And this has wider implications -- on the entire state of global PC demand! Break out the bubbly! Uh, not quite yet. Now make sure your wig is clipped to your head, because we're going to take a look at this morning's Wall Street Journal. Its headline read: " Intel Net Rises 12%, but Outlook Is Uncertain: Chip Giant Says It Is Unsure How Much the Financial Crisis Will Affect Demand for Technology Products." Perhaps one man's uncertainty is another man's steadiness. By the way, lest you think this headline pulled out a thread of the article that did not exist, the same notion is, again, front and center in the article's lead: "Intel Corp. posted a 12% jump in third-quarter profit and pointed to continued sales growth in the current period, but cautioned that the outlook for spending on technology products is uncertain."
And so, you are probably asking, head in hands, is reality reflected in the headline and lead behind the Associated Press's Door No. 1 or The Wall Street Journal's Door No. 2? Uh, neither. Why do you think The Business Press Maven has his head in his hands? Even in portraying completely different circumstances, both get it wrong. We have to get a toe behind the Financial Times' Door No. 3 to get a real understanding of Intel's more complex reality. It relates, as these things often do in times like this, to unfolding reality set against the backdrop of our worst fears. Said the Financial Times in their headline: " Intel expects to withstand worst of crisis." Got that? The first couple of sentences got into the complex notion that Intel, acknowledging how difficult predictions were in this environment (give it credit for that bit of honesty, which comes complete with the offer of an essential halfway-through-the-quarter update, a gesture of transparency that other firms should follow), managed to say enough to allay investor's worst fears: "Intel comforted Wall Street on Tuesday as it forecast a limited effect on its fourth-quarter earnings from the fallout of the credit crunch. "'Business levels are difficult to predict,' said Paul Otellini, chief executive, but the world's biggest chipmaker forecast revenues of $10.1bn to $10.9bn and gross margins of 59 per cent.'" And soon: "The sense is that it's not as bad as feared," said Avi Cohen of Avian Securities. "'Everyone recognises Q4 is going to be a very tough quarter and to
forecast a 59 per cent gross margin is a relief at this point. These are not end-of-the-world numbers.'" Got that? With apologies to the Associated Press, Intel is not exactly holding steady here with wider implications for the PC world. But Intel is also not -- sorry, Wall Street Journal -- completely unsure and uncertain. It's said enough, within limits, to offer some assurances that investors don't have a disaster on their hands. In fact, things might be all right. Not great by any means, but OK. Given the circumstances and levels of public panic, that's complex but pretty good news.