Did you think you'd see the day EMC(NYSE: EMC) traded as a penny stock? The data-storage giant just hit a five-year low, dipping below $5 a stub. Three stock splits have hacked away at the stock's cost basis since 1997. The only splitting the company has been producing these days is of the headache variety.

EMC announced preliminary third-quarter results, and it's not pretty. Revenue of $1.25 billion is a marginal improvement over last year's September period, and the $0.02-a-share loss is twice as large as the red penny Wall Street was looking for. What's worse, while analysts were expecting EMC to return to profitability in the final quarter of the year, that now appears unlikely. The company will also lay off 7% of its workforce.

Don't act so surprised. Until the economy improves, companies just aren't going to hit up EMC with storage orders the way they did when revenue and operating profits peaked in 2000. That's a fact. While EMC's competition has jockeyed for position during the industry's downtime, both the company and the stock will see brighter days once corporate spending flicks the switch.

Until then, the only thing EMC has effectively stored lately is cash. With $5.5 billion in cash and investments, the company also announced a 250-million share buyback. That's just a dip in EMC's greenbacks mother lode, but if it's carried out, it will wipe clean about 11% of the shares outstanding. With more than half of the company's market cap spoken for by its cash position, the shares offer a tempting consideration for the patient value hunter.

But how long will investors have to wait for their faith to be rewarded? When you're dealing with storage, that patience might have to be stocked away for a considerable amount of time.