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I’d say Intel’s (INTC) third quarter earnings report, released after the market close yesterday, October 12, is more likely to be greeted with a sigh of relief than a gasp of pleased surprise.

Earnings for the third quarter came to 52 cents a share. That’s 2 cents a share better than the Wall Street analyst consensus.

Revenue climbed to $11.1 billion, a gain of 18.2% from the third quarter of 2009, and slightly above the consensus expectations for $10.99 billion.

The all-important gross margins were 66%. That insignificantly lagged the consensus call for 66.1% and fell smack in the middle of the company’s own guidance of 65% to 67%. The average selling price for Intel’s chips was approximately flat with the second quarter. That’s good news for investors who were worried that slowing PC demand in the quarter would leave Intel selling proportionately more chips for notebooks and netbooks at lower margins.

In its own low-key way Intel signaled its excitement about its next generation Sandy Bridge processor, saying it was “particularly excited about our next-generation processor.”

I think that’s a good summary for the quarter. Solid. Nothing to scare investors out of the sector. But nothing that generates a feeling of “Got to buy tech stocks now” either.