Chip stocks are starting the week at their lowest point in six months, with the world's third- and first-ranked semiconductor manufacturers set to report results early this week.

Tech investors have been sent reeling during the past month, with the steepest declines coming last week, on concerns that the economy is weakening.

IBM

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missed its financial results because of a sharp decline in business in the final weeks of the quarter, and predicted it would make its full-year earnings target by cutting costs, not through a pickup in sales.

"My biggest fear during the next two weeks is what guidance will be," says Tom Telford, portfolio manager of the American Century Technology Fund. "The interesting thing about tech CEOs is that they spend way too much time looking at the market. When the market is bad, their mood is bad."

Telford sees the potential for a cycle of negativity stemming from the stock market's spooking of tech executives, which in turn could cause stocks to drop even farther. "I'm afraid that as bad as the market has been the last few weeks that they could cause stocks to go down further."

This week begins with

Texas Instruments

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reporting after Monday's closing bell. The Dallas-based company makes a wide range of analog and digital signal processors used in cell phones, computers, cars and digital TVs. TI ranked as the world's third-largest chipmaker last year.

Shares have tumbled since the company's

midquarter update. At that time, TI lowered the high end of its financial targets because of an ongoing inventory bloat in its chips that are used in high-end TVs and projectors. Shares closed Friday's regular session at $22.76, off 17% since the midquarter update.

Analysts expect TI to earn 23 cents a share on revenue of $29.9 billion, on average, according to Thomson First Call. TI's results will also reflect on its largest customer,

Nokia

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, which reports later in the week.

Intel

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, the world's largest chipmaker, reports results after Tuesday's closing bell. Analysts expect earnings of 31 cents a share on sales of $9.31 billion, on average, according to Thomson First Call. Intel's shares dropped 5% last week to $22.12 in the wake of smaller competitor

Advanced Micro Devices

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reporting an

unexpected loss for the first quarter.

AMD also announced that it would

bail out of its flash memory unit by spinning it off through an initial public offering. The move was largely seen as a result of oversupply and intense price competition on the part of Intel. Flash memory makes up only 10% of Intel's sales, but the unit is a loss generator for Intel.

It's possible, however, that improved outlooks for TI's and Intel's second quarter could provide a boost to stocks reporting later in the week. But the second quarter is not traditionally a strong period for the industry. And the recent weakness across the whole stock market makes it unlikely that any CEO will risk his or her hide by predicting a blowout quarter.

Still, the possibility that a company can perform to expectations and hold the line on guidance would likely be enough to engender a purchasing opportunity.

Telford pointed to

Cree

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, a specialty semiconductor manufacturer, as an example of this. Cree shares jumped 12% Friday to $24.94 after the company beat Wall Street's earnings target by a penny and sales target by 1%. More importantly, Cree issued financial goals for the current quarter that matched what Wall Street had been modeling.

"The way stocks have been moving recently," Telford says, "most investors anticipate companies missing their targets. So if that doesn't happen, then stocks should react positively."