Intel is killing the tech sector this morning, down six percent in trading – to $14.40 per share – after a particularly dismal earnings outlook.
I’ll get into the details in a moment, but it’s worth noting that we can’t just point the icy finger of guilt at Intel. I’m afraid the predictions of horrible quarterly corporate numbers are coming true. It’s just bad luck for Intel that the company was among the first out of the box.
It’s also worth noting that the day the Intel numbers, estimates are out that the U.S. economy will shed 677,000 jobs, according to Friday’s upcoming employment report. That number isn’t helping anyone on Wall Street today.
Back to Intel. According to company bean counters, Intel’s preliminary fourth quarter revenue was even more brutal than expected, primarily because of lower global demand for personal computers.
Overall, Intel estimates its revenue to be about $8.2 billion, down 23 percent from a year earlier. It had previously forecast $9 billion, so the big disparity is disturbing, especially because Intel Chairman Craig Barrett had said last November hat the early revision was final. Intel also sees a net loss from equity investments and interest of between $1.1 billion and $1.2 billion, worse than its previous expectation of a loss of around $50 million.
There’s no doubt that the Intel numbers have hurt the markets today. Worse, with more corporate numbers about to roll in, we can expect similar days in the coming weeks. "Clearly we are going to be in an ugly period for corporate earnings. That shouldn't be a surprise to anybody," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Asset Management, in an interview with the Associated Press today. "I think we are going to see announcements like this throughout the earnings season and (especially) this preannouncement period," he said.
Elsewhere, consumers are reeling as bills come in for the holiday season. Some estimates peg holiday spending at $1,000 on average, per person. With so many tech workers out of work, it’s worth noting that consumers do have rights, particularly against aggressive debt collectors.
Therefore, some advice is in order today from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). The organization says that collectors might become more aggressive in 2009. According to the NFCC, consumers who are delinquent on accounts are likely to receive calls or letters from creditors sooner than in the past. Since money is tight, the creditors want to be first in line, thus enhancing their chance of being repaid.
Realizing that holiday bills are arriving, and millions of consumers may have accounts in collections with a third-party collector, or headed there, the NFCC wants to remind people of the protections afforded by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Here are some useful tips if debt collectors are pounding on your door:
• When can they call? - A debt collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax. However, a debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree to such times.
• Can they call me at work? - You may not be contacted at work by a debt collector if the collector knows that your employer disapproves of such contacts.
• Can they harass me? – A collector may not use threats of violence or harm, use obscene or profane language, or repeatedly use the telephone to annoy you. Further, they may not imply that you’ve committed a crime or will be arrested if you do not pay your debt, or pretend that they are an attorney or are a government representative if they are not.
• Is there any way to get collection efforts to stop? - The consumer can stop all contact from the collector by writing a letter to the collector telling them to stop. Once the collector receives the letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact, or to notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action.
• Can they tell others about my debt? - A debt collector may contact other people, but only to find out where you live, what your phone number is, and where you work. Typically, they may only contact a third party once, and in most cases, the collector may not tell anyone other than you and your attorney (if you have one) that you owe the debt.
• What if I don’t think I owe the debt? - You are entitled to a verification of the debt within five days of initial contact. This confirmation must be sent to you in writing and must include the amount of money you owe, the name of the creditor to whom you owe the debt, and provide you with options to take if you do not owe the money.
• Can they continue to contact me after I dispute the debt? – Collection efforts may not continue if, within 30 days after you receive the written notice, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe the money. However, a collector can renew collection activities by providing you with proof of the debt.
Hey, just because you might have lost your job doesn’t give creditors the right to hound you. So take heed and know that better days lie ahead.