The cyclical semiconductor lull may be over. Bellwether Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) rang strong and loud last night, announcing its second-quarter earnings. Profits more than doubled to $0.14 a share as revenue grew to $6.8 billion from a $6.3 billion showing the year before.

The new quarter holds even more promise as the company is looking for sequential improvement in everything from gross margins to the top line. Sweetness all around, but nervous trend watchers may have noticed that while Intel did inch up its R&D budget for 2003, it kept its capital spending forecast in check.

Holding the line on its $3.5 billion to $3.9 billion capital spending target sent a ripple through its otherwise favorable earnings report. If demand was in fact starting to pick up, shouldn't Intel be following suit? Is the company worried about long-term weakness? To the fiscal worrywarts out there, maybe four words of advice are in order: Open a history book!

Three years ago, Intel had the investing world buzzing. After devoting $3.4 billion to capital spending in 1999, it earmarked a hefty $5 billion for the following year. By that logic, 2000 should have been an amazing year for the industry and Intel. Well, it may have started out well, but that was the year the bottom fell out of the chip market -- and the tech stock market as a whole.

In other words, don't read too much into the company's capital spending projections. Tech companies that spend their time correcting three months' worth of profit guidance aren't going to be giving Nostradamus a run for his visionary money anytime soon.

Take Intel's report for its positives. The company is making so much money that it's been able to spend $1 billion on share repurchases every quarter while growing its cash investments to a whopping $13.4 billion.

Yes, the company's hesitancy to load up on capital spending is a cautious move, but look where the Y2K exuberance landed it. I'll take the sleeker, somber, penny-pinching Intel of today anytime.

Is Intel holding true to its 2003 capital spending budget despite its healthy outlook for the rest of the year a contradiction? Are the semis finally back for keeps this time? What does this report say of the health of the computer industry? All this and more -- in the Intel discussion board. Only on