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Altera's Surprise Surprised Nobody

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Ignoring the near-term doom and gloom reported by many of its competitors, chip designer Altera (Nasdaq: ALTR  ) has decided to stick with its original, optimistic view. Not only that, but management expects to deliver its strongest gross margins ever in 2011.

The midpoint of Altera's reiterated sales guidance remains comfortably higher than the analyst consensus. But if you thought positive signals of this magnitude would ignite a firestorm of share buys and higher prices, you'd be mistaken. The market already expected a lot out of Altera, as evidenced by a 39% rise over the past three months and 70% higher share prices year-over-year. There's a lot of short-selling interest here, but this event will not ignite any kind of short squeeze.

Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN  ) has been talking about soft end-market demand in the next few quarters, Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) became the biggest canary in the coal mine with a warning of its own, and even stalwart chip champ Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) has been waxing defensive lately. Nobody knows what consumers will do, and we've seen mixed signals when it comes to corporate and industrial IT spending. Altera's rosy view flies in the face of all of this, fueled by muscular adoption of the company's latest and greatest programmable chip models.

When all is said and done, Altera is on a strong growth trajectory both in fundamental business terms and investor enthusiasm. The company is strongly profitable, and the stock isn't terribly expensive even after the recent gains. This has been a three-star CAPS stock since early summer, only recently lifted to four-star status on the back of a veritable horde of "outperform" votes in the past couple of weeks.

Is Altera about to join NVIDIA and Cypress Semiconductor on their lofty five-star CAPS perch? Whether you're in favor or against, your vote can make all the difference.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Cypress Semiconductor is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers choice. NVIDIA is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool has written calls (bull call spread) on Cisco Systems. The Fool owns shares of and has bought calls on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. The Fool owns shares of Texas Instruments. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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