NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The fact that Intel ( INTC) only warned once in the third quarter makes for slightly positive achievement for the wheezing chip sector. The next step comes after the bell Tuesday. Intel is set to report earnings later today and give an update on the health of computer sales. The PC chip maker added a last splash of cold water on the cooling tech rally in August when it cut its sales outlook due to slumping demand for computers. The shortfall ushered in a sense of doom for holiday PC sales season, dashing hopes from earlier in the year that a spending recovery was underway.
But without a stream of much-gloomier predictions, investors were left with the impression that PC sales were weak -- but not disastrously so. Analysts expect Intel to post third quarter adjusted earnings of 50 cents a share on sales of $11 billion with a gross margin of 66%. But as always, investors await word of how the PC sector is managing and what Intel's outlook is for business in the fourth quarter. Intel's near monopoly of the computer chip market has not served the company well as product trends have run in other directions. Intel has been absent from the mobile phone party and missed the launch of tablets, which Apple ( AAPL) has shown to be a very important growth segment of the market. In August, Intel agreed to a $1.4 billion deal to acquire the wireless chip business of Infineon just days after a $7.7 billion deal to buy security software giant McAfee ( MFE). The acquisition rush was bold bid to get involved with ventures outside its core chip market. Summing up in an Intel earnings preview, Barclays Capital writes in a note Tuesday that "given weak expectations and recent underperformance, we expect some near-term investor relief for Intel and for the broader semiconductor group." Of course, if Intel offers a lowered forecast, expect alarms across the entire tech sector to go off. --Written by Scott Moritz in New York. >To contact this writer, click here: Scott Moritz, or email: email@example.com. To follow Scott on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/TheStreet_Tech. >To send a tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.