Updated to include Intel's statement in the sixth paragraph.
Intel's (INTC) springing a leak.
Shares of the chipmaker are down almost 4% Wednesday afternoon, following reports that a design flaw has been identified in Intel processors that could let attackers access security keys, passwords and files. The flaw is caused by kernel memory leaking, and reportedly affects all Intel chips made in the last 10 years or so.
The bad news is that while the flaw can be fixed in operating system software, that fix comes at a performance cost. Early benchmarks show that the patches could slow older machines as much as 30%.
With Intel's 80% market share of the microprocessor market, the effects of the flaw are widespread. Everything from consumer laptops to server chips are affected.
Not affected are the chips made by competitor Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) -- a stock that's enjoying a 7% pop Wednesday afternoon thanks to schadenfreude, as investors speculate that the bad news for Intel could mean more orders for AMD chips.
In a statement Wednesday, Intel noted that its products aren't the only ones affected, and that performance hits for the fix shouldn't be significant for the average consumer. Software fixes are also currently underway for ARM-based distributions of the Linux operating system. However, in an email sent to a Linux kernel mailing list in late December, AMD confirmed that its processors are not susceptible to this sort of kernel leakage attack.
To figure out the impact of the chip news, we're turning to the charts for a technical look at both AMD and Intel.
Wednesday's 4% selloff in shares of Intel is an unwelcome start to 2018 for Intel shareholders, but the good news is that it doesn't change this stock's long-term price trajectory -- at least not yet. Intel hit its head on resistance at $47.50 back in early November, and shares have been consolidating sideways right below that level ever since, forming a bullish continuation pattern in the interim.
Simply put, a breakout above $47.50 is still a key breakout level for shares of Intel, even if the latest chip-flaw news prolongs the timeframe for shares to push through that price level.
Relative strength, the indicator at the bottom of the INTC chart, adds some extra confidence to Intel's bullish trajectory. Intel's relative strength line continues to point higher this winter, signaling that Intel is still systematically outperforming the broad market right now. If shares can crack $47.50, we've got a new signal that buyers are still in control of the price action.
Meanwhile, things are getting interesting in AMD here too:
AMD was a notable laggard in 2017, shedding around 9% of its value while the rest of the stock market was rallying. But a classic inverse head-and-shoulders reversal pattern is finally signaling near-term upside in AMD -- and today's Intel-driven pop in AMD shares is the catalyst.
The breakout above AMD's neckline clears the way for a re-test of prior resistance up at $14.50.
Investors should consider the technical breakout in AMD Wednesday a clear buy signal for shares. On the flipside, Intel bulls should wait for this stock to catch a bid above $47.50 before getting back into INTC shares.
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