NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Alcoa's ( AA) quarterly report kicked off this most recent earnings season.
Droves of companies are slated to follow the firm's lead over the next few weeks, providing investors with insight into their performance over the past three-month period. During this time, a number of ETF opportunities will appear on the radar. Thursday's earnings schedule is headlined by Intel ( INTC). As the world's largest semiconductor chip maker, analysts typically keep a close watch on this firm's performance in hopes of gaining insight not only into the state of the semiconductor industry, but the broader tech sector as well. Intel saw success in the first three quarters of 2010, marked in November by a comfortable dividend hike and a bold statement from CEO Paul Otellini, saying the firm was on track to see its "best year ever." The report on Thursday will provide investors with insights into how the final three months of the year shaped up. As investors aim towards 2011, Intel looks to remain strong and promising as a leader in the industry. However, the company still faces challenges on the horizon. One major hurdle threatening the firm's potential in the new year will likely be growing pressure from leading competitors. Intel has long been the dominant player in the PC industry. However, at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft ( MSFT) announced that the next version of Windows will support ARM Holdings ( ARM) chips. Growing demand for tablet computers also weighs on the firm. Although the company has taken steps, Intel has seen a noticeable delay in entering this region of the market. A report from Zacks highlights analysts' concerns associated with the fact that the company is not expected to step into this industry until the latter half of 2011. Given the hurdles facing Intel, taking a broader approach to this industry may prove to be a more lucrative option for the coming year. The iShares PHLX SOX Semiconductor Sector Index Fund ( SOXX) is a large and appropriately liquid option for investors looking for exposure to the semiconductor industry. The fund is ideal for fans of Intel as the firm represents 7% of its index. Aside from Intel, however, SOXX's underlying components include a bevy of firms which are considered to be household names in the chip-making industry.