SAN FRANCISCO --

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

has been an island of calm and stability during the past year's economic turmoil.

But ominous clouds are drifting over the tech giant's sanctuary.

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The strong overseas demand that allowed H-P to skirt the U.S. slowdown looks less reliable every day, while the favorable currency exchange rates that juiced H-P's revenue are fading.

Cramer: Look Past the Quarter on H-P

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And soft spots are appearing in certain corners of H-P's business: U.S. PC shipments grew a modest 5.6% in the second calendar quarter at H-P, compared to

Dell's

(DELL) - Get Report

11.9% growth and

Apple's

(AAPL) - Get Report

38% growth, according to industry research firm Gartner.

How this all plays out in H-P's income statement will become clear when the company reports its quarterly earnings after Tuesday's market close.

H-P has consistently delivered the goods for Wall Street in the era of CEO Mark Hurd, who has rejuvenated the Palo Alto, Calif., company less through bold strategic bets than through obsessively shaving costs and fine-tuning everyday business operations.

Yet even that staid game plan seems to be changing with H-P's $13.9 billion bid for technology services firm

EDS

(EDS)

in May -- a deal that would represent H-P's largest acquisition in years.

That deal -- which has yet to close -- has caused nervousness among shareholders who

wonder whether the two companies are a good fit

.

Shares of H-P are up about 8% since their most recent bottom in July, finishing Friday's regular session at $45.59, well below the 52-week high of $53.48.

American Technology Analyst Shaw Wu notes that short interest in H-P is up about 23% since late May, a reflection of the increasing bearish sentiment toward H-P.

Still, Wu rates H-P a buy, noting that the EDS deal will give H-P a chance to save costs by combining the two organizations' business operations.

And he says H-P's broad portfolio of technology products should offset any weak pockets within the business like inkjet printers and U.S. PC sales.

Analysts expect H-P to hit the high end of its financial forecast, with sales of $27.4 billion -- up 7.8% year over year -- and adjusted EPS of 83 cents for its recently-ended fiscal third quarter.

It's the outlook that's more worrisome.

The fact that H-P derives 70% of its revenue outside the U.S. has served it well, with robust demand in places like China, India and Russia keeping orders flowing. But the latest signs from abroad are not encouraging.

Business conditions are weakening in China, with reports of slowing factory orders and exports. In Europe's 15-nation eurozone, gross domestic product

contracted in the second quarter

-- the first time GDP has declined since the zone's creation in 1995.

Meanwhile, after years of flailing, the U.S. dollar is firming up. That means goods produced by American companies like H-P will be more expensive to overseas customers.

And it means H-P's top line will benefit less from the extra kick that comes from converting sales booked in foreign currencies back into dollars. Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi reckons that the strengthening dollar could cause H-P to reduce its revenue outlook for the current quarter to below the $30.3 billion expected by Wall Street analysts.

All told, it's a much less hospitable environment for H-P to thrive in and a fresh challenge for Hurd.

After earning Wall Street's admiration by fixing H-P, Hurd now needs to prove that his creation can weather a new storm.