Hopkinton, Mass. (


) --



should offer valuable insight into the state of IT spending when it posts its third-quarter results before the market opens Thursday.

The storage giant, which recently hit a 52-week high, is expected to earn 21 cents a share and report revenue of $3.45 billion, according to analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

Despite storage's reputation as a recession-busting technology, EMC has not had the

easiest of times

during the downturn, although its

second-quarter results

suggested that demand was stabilizing.

Barclays recently


the technology hardware sector, citing

improving demand

for servers and storage, with momentum expected to continue through 2010.

Despite analyst bullishness, EMC rival


(IBM) - Get International Business Machines (IBM) Report

saw its storage revenue plunge 13% during its recent quarterly results, increasing the interest in

EMC's numbers


"Our checks suggest that EMC tracked slightly ahead of plan throughout the quarter driven mostly by hardware -- both with Clariion (midrange) and Symmetrix (high-end)," wrote Goldman Sachs analyst David Bailey, in a recent note. The company's hardware revenue, although still pressured by the macro environment, should be up 5% sequentially, he added.

The New England firm reported second-quarter revenue of $3.26 billion, down 11% on the prior year's quarter but just above Wall Street's forecast of $3.2 billion. Sales, however, increased 3.4% sequentially.

Investors may also gain a hint as to EMC's performance late Wednesday, when its


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subsidiary posts its own

third-quarter results

. VMware contributed

$455 million

to EMC's second-quarter results.

Bailey nonetheless feels that EMC's stock may offer limited near-term upside. "We think EMC's strong September-quarter results are already mostly reflected in the shares at current levels," he wrote. "We wouldn't expect the stock to move up on earnings and see the risk/reward with a slight downward bias near term."

The storage giant is also expected to provide an update on its hard-fought



Data Domain


, which saw EMC fend off a

spirited challenge

from rival


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. Other recent EMC purchases include




, which sells legal compliance software.

EMC, which recently




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exec Pat Gelsinger to be its COO, may also provide an update on its cloud strategy during its third-quarter conference call.

EMC shares rose 11 cents, or 0.62%, to $17.83 Wednesday.

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York