So far, so good' says Intel boss

Intel Corp.'s chief executive said that chip orders have been "a little better than we expected" so far in the second quarter, a sign that semiconductor sales are slowly improving.

The company's stock climbed 3 per cent in after-hours trading following Paul Otellini's comments during an analyst conference at Intel's Santa Clara headquarters.

Otellini said he stands by his remark last month that personal computer sales have "bottomed out" and are recovering from their worst slump in six years.

He said he's convinced things are returning to normal seasonal patterns, and that Intel's results have been "so far, so good" in the second quarter.

The first and second quarters are typically the toughest for chip makers, since holidays and back-to-school are bigger PC-buying seasons.

Otellini didn't offer more detailed guidance on Tuesday. Intel predicted in its quarterly earnings report last month that second-quarter sales would be about the same as the first quarter's. First-quarter revenue was US$7.1 billion, down 26 per cent from the same period in 2008.

One thing Otellini didn't mention in his speech was the possibility of a huge antitrust fine in Europe for Intel's allegedly abusive behaviour toward Advanced Micro Devices.

A European Union fine against Intel is expected to come Wednesday.

European regulators have accused Intel of illegally thwarting AMD's business by offering big rebates to computer-makers and retailers to avoid AMD's products, and selling its server chips below the cost of making them. Intel has denied the allegations and maintained its practices are legal.