Ahead of the Bell: Dell reports 3Q earnings

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NEW YORK (AP) ? Investors will be watching Dell Inc.’s earnings report Tuesday for signs of PC spending growth among businesses and government agencies. That’s where Dell counts most of its customers.

They’ll also be looking for information on how the company has been affected by shortages of hard disk drives because of heavy flooding in Thailand.

Dell Inc. reports its fiscal third-quarter results on Tuesday after the market closes.

The personal computer industry has been struggling from lower demand and competition from mobile devices ahead of the holiday season.

Yet Dell’s results could be stronger than the overall PC market because the company relies more heavily on selling to businesses than to customers. The customer PC market has seen weak demand because of the economy and competition from tablet computers and smartphones.

The company also stands to benefit from falling prices for PC components.

And the company is banking on its other businesses, such as technology services, to help protect it against swings in PC sales.

One unknown is how the flooding in Thailand will affect production.

Apple Inc. said a month ago that it expects production of its Mac computers to be affected, but it didn’t have enough information then to say how badly. Research firm IDC indicated last week that much of the impact on PC makers won’t be felt until early next year.

Dell’s results come just a few weeks after research firms IDC and Gartner Inc. reported that the company dropped to the No. 3 PC maker spot, losing second place to China’s Lenovo Group Ltd. Hewlett-Packard Co. is No. 1.

On average, analysts polled by FactSet are expecting earnings of 47 cents per share on revenue of $15.65 billion. A year ago, Dell reported net income of $822 million, or 42 cents per share. Adjusted earnings were 45 cents per share and excluded such items as a gain related to Dell’s failed bid to buy data-storage maker 3Par. Revenue was $15.4 billion.