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Greenberg: Canary in the Chip Coal Mine?

Wednesday, 14 Jul 2010 | 4:41 PM ET

Here's an interesting tidbit from the semiconductor world — and it has nothing to do with Intel, at least not yet.

Instead the spotlight is on chip-equipment maker Kulicke & Soffa, which is often called the canary in the coal mine for the chip industry because of its close proximity to production.

In an investor presentation today, the company said: "Some fourth-quarter ball-bonder orders were pushed out…" (Ball bonders, if you're wondering, are sewing machine-like devices that connect wire to chips.)

But wait, there's more: The company also had a chart showing its customer factory utilization rate is starting to slip — a confirming sign the slowdown is already occurring.

The upshot:

On the consumer side of the business, semi sales appear as though they are starting to soften. Look no further than electronic comps at many retailers, which have been negative.

And you can also see it at Intel, which went out of its way to say that the strength in its business was not the consumer side.

Among companies with exposure: AMD , which reports tomorrow, and Nvidia , the graphics chipmaker —both of which received sells from Morgan Stanley .

My take: There is more to chips than Inteland this is likely to be quite the bifurcated chip earnings season.

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