January 14, 2011 / 7:59 PM / 7 years ago

Intel's market sway wanes as it bucks S&P gains

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Intel Corp doesn’t look like the market bellwether it once was.

<p>Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini casts a shadow on a video wall during the company's unveiling of its second generation Intel Core processor family at a news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas January 5, 2011. REUTERS/Rick Wilking</p>

For the third consecutive quarter, shares of the chipmaker are moving in the opposite direction of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index a day after it reported earnings.

By contrast, for several years Intel’s stock was virtually a lock to move in the same direction as the market.

Investors cited the company’s meager position in growing tech segments like tablets and mobile devices as a reason its status as a proxy for tech shares is waning.

Ralph Shive, the South Bend, Indiana-based manager of the $1.7 billion Wasatch-1st Source Income Equity Fund, said he’s added to his Intel holdings in the last year, “but we understand that the momentum group won’t be pounding the table to get in here.”

It’s a far cry from the years when Intel was one of the “Four Horsemen” driving the Nasdaq Composite, along with Microsoft Corp, Cisco Systems Inc, and Oracle Corp.

In 2010 shares of Intel gained 3.1 percent while the Nasdaq Composite rose 17 percent, as the market looked to a new group of stocks as the leaders, including Riverbed Technology Inc, F5 Networks Inc and Salesforce.com Inc.

Until the last three quarters, Intel shares and the benchmark index moved in tandem for 14 consecutive quarters, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The relationship between Intel and the Nasdaq Composite is at its weakest in years. The stock kept a high correlation coefficient as the two moved in tandem. It currently has a 22-day correlation coefficient of -0.21, and early in January was -0.83, with -1 representing a perfectly negative relationship.

Kevin Kruszenski, the Cleveland-based head of listed trading at KeyBanc Capital Markets, said the divergence could partially be attributed to Intel’s having characteristics of a cyclical stock.

“Much like the industrial cyclicals, people don’t buy them when the earnings are high. They buy when they are bottomed out and they have high multiples and low earnings because they know the cycle is going to change,” he said. “It’s more of a play on the cycle than the actual (results).”

Profit was up 48 percent year-over-year for Intel, the company said late Thursday. On Friday, the stock fell 0.8 percent while the S&P 500 rose 0.5 percent. The S&P is up 9.3 percent since the start of December while Intel is unchanged.

The company’s higher-than-expected revenue outlook initially calmed hopes about Intel’s minor role in the smartphone and tablet computer markets where Britain’s ARM Holdings dominates.

Many analysts cited that lack of participation as a factor behind the absence of enthusiasm in Friday trading.

“The correlation is breaking off as other semiconductor stocks become more significant to the way the semiconductor market is becoming restructured based on new products,” said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at the Charlotte, Vermont-based Windham Financial Services. “There are other players in this area now. Intel is late to the party.”

The semiconductor index rose 1.9 percent and is up 15 percent since the start of December. Novellus Systems was the top percentage gainer on the index, surging 11.7 percent to $36.66. KLA Tencor gained 5.7 percent to $42.04.

Editing by Kenneth Barry

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