Careless Whisper Numbers Sink Intel Shares

"To the heart and mind
Ignorance is kind
And there's no comfort in the truth
Pain is all you'll find"
-- "Careless Whisper" by George Michael, 1984

When whisper numbers run ahead of the official analyst estimates, it's not enough to just beat the Street. Intel (NAS: INTC) felt the full force of this truism on Wednesday as the chip titan breezed past analyst targets, only to see its shares prices swooning.

Keep in mind that the first quarter of 2012 covered 13 weeks of business activity but the year-ago period had 14 weeks. That's a 7% headwind to year-over-year comparisons.

Intel's sales rose a minuscule 0.4% year over year to $12.9 billion while non-GAAP earnings sank 3% to $0.56 per diluted share. Analysts would have settled for $12.8 billion and $0.50 per share, respectively, but Intel shares fell as much as 3.5% overnight anyway.

Still, the only shareholders with any reason to complain are the short-timers and day traders. They'll feel the pain George Michael bemoaned in today's National Poetry Month tribute while the rest of us might even see a buy-in opportunity here.

This stock has gained 10% over the past three months and 43% in a year, this drop notwithstanding. Add in $0.81 of dividend payouts per share in the past four quarters, and Intel looks even better to long-term owners.

Shares of chief competitor Advanced Micro Devices (NYS: AMD) rose on Wednesday, but don't read too much into that move: Intel's results mightn't be the hottest catalyst for it. AMD will report its own results on Thursday night, right before this month's options expiration deadline. That's plenty of kindle for fiery speculation in any stock, particularly one that's rumored to make a supposedly game-changing investment in processor developer MIPS Technologies (NAS: MIPS) any day now.

Intel generated $3 billion of operating cash flow this quarter -- and returned $2.5 billion directly to shareholders in the form of dividends and share buybacks. It's hard to find a more shareholder-friendly company on today's market, but not completely impossible. If Intel's dividends float your boat, you'll absolutely love these nine rock-solid payout producers as well.

At the time this article was published

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