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Cisco Joins Intel in Tech Purgatory

Cisco , among the most-loved stocks on Wall Street by analysts, is expected on Wednesday to report that sales increased by at least 20 percent in the latest fiscal quarter. The Chief Executive John Chambers is likely to say on his conference call that business conditions are improving around the world.

Cisco’s shares currently trade for just over three times cash. But in this uncertain environment, it may not matter.

Cisco trades today almost exactly in the middle between its 52-week high and 52-week low. It’s struggled to break through its 200-day moving average this month. Intel is another technology stock stuck almost perfectly in the middle between its one-year trading range. That’s even after executives said three weeks ago following the chipmakers earnings that every geography was posting better than expected growth.

“The earnings report may move Cisco temporarily, but not for long,” said Pete Najarian, co-founder of TradeMonster.com and a ‘Fast Money’ trader. “Just look at Intel. No matter what the CEOs say there are still going to be questions about maintaining growth and margins in this economic stagnation.”

It’s a purgatory that the whole market finds itself trapped. Despite more than three-fourths of the S&P 500 beating earnings estimates in the past month, an easing of the Euro crisis and many aggressive valuation calls from investors, the benchmark finds itself still unchanged for the year. Cisco is up just 2% in 2010.

“Valuation appears very compelling, with Cisco’s multiple relative to the S&P 500 firmly in the lowest decline of its 5-year history,” wrote Jayson Noland, a Baird analyst. “Historically, buying at these valuation levels has yielded strong outperformance versus the market.”

But this is not an economic environment we’ve seen in the last five years. The Federal Reserve may signal tomorrow that it is ready to begin buying assets like Treasuries to fight deflation, once again, some economists predict. The central bank could also issue a downgrade of the economy, raising fears of a double-dip scenario. How could John Chambers soothe jittery, safety-seeking investors a day after that?

“Cisco, Intel and other tech will surely earn money, but I am not sure they are the growth story,” said Brian Kelly, founder of Kanundrum Capital. “And the market does not seem to care anyway.”

Despite Intel being unchanged for the year, Kelly owns the stock for its dividend income and the chance that the technology sector does eventually get some investor interest. That’s something that can’t be said for Cisco, which doesn’t pay a dividend.

For the best market insight, catch 'Fast Money' each night at 5pm ET, and the ‘Halftime Report’ each afternoon at 12:30 ET on CNBC.

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Trader disclosure: On Aug 9, 2010, the following stocks and commodities mentioned or intended to be mentioned on CNBC’s Fast Money were owned by the Fast Money traders;

Adami owns (AGU), (BTU), (NUE), (C), (GS), (INTC), (MSFT); Adami’s wife works at Merck; Finerman owns (AAPL); Finerman's firm owns (ARM); Finerman & Finerman's firm owns (BAC); Finerman’s firm owns (BBY); Finerman's firm owns (LEA); Finerman’s firm owns (KFT); Finerman & Finerman's firm owns (JPM); Finerman & Finerman's firm owns (RIMM); Finerman’s firm owns (TSX); Finerman’s firm owns (GYMB); Finerman’s firm owns (PLCE); Finerman's firm owns (WMT); Finerman's firm owns (DAN); Finerman's firm is short (IJR); Finerman's firm is short (MDY); Finerman's firm is short (SPY); Finerman's firm is short (IWM); Finerman’s firm owns S&P 500 puts; Finerman’s firm owns Russell 2000 puts; Pete Najarian owns (HPQ) call spread; Pete Najarian owns (RIMM) call spread; Pete Najarian owns (GS) calls; Pete Najarian owns (V) call spread; Cortes owns (CIB); Cortes owns (FCX); Cortes owns (OAS); Cortes owns (QQQQ); Cortes is short US Treasuries; Cortes is short the Japanese Yen; Stutland is long (TLT) and short calls; Stutland owns US treasuries

For Brian Kelly
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital own (INTC)
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Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital own (C)
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For Patty Edwards
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Joe LaVorgna
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For Will Power
Robert W. Baird & Co. and/or its affiliates expect to receive or intend to seek investment banking related compensation from (RIMM), (MOT), (NOK), (GOOG), (AAPL) within the next 3 months.

David Bank
RBC Capital Markets is currently providing The Walt Disney Company with non-securities services

RBC Capital Markets has provided The Walt Disney Company with non-securities services in the past 12 months

Kurt Nelson
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