Intel Corp President Craig Barrett said on Thursday demand for personal computers was expected to rebound in the second half of this year on seasonal rather than fundamental factors.

``Any rebound in the third quarter and fourth quarter will be more seasonal than fundamental,'' the head of the world's top

chipmaker told Reuters in an interview.

He said the improved demand was due to buying ahead of the new school term and for the holiday season as well as by the introduction of the new Windows XP.

``The computer industry has bottomed out. That in itself tells you that you're looking at when it's gonna take off,'' Barrett said.

But the sluggish global economy has made consumption patterns difficult to predict, he said.

``It's very difficult to predict right now exactly what will happen. You have kind of a synchronous slowdown in all the economies, in the U.S., Europe and Japan,'' he said.

Intel shares were traded via Instinet at $31.20 on Thursday morning in Europe, compared to their $30.75 U.S. close.

``We're looking better after the Merrill Lynch comments yesterday and some remarks from the Intel chief executive,'' one dealer told Reuters.

``The comment bit that caught the eye was his opinion that the PC market has bottomed and that chipsales will pick up in the third and fourth quarter,'' he said.

Barrett's comments came in the wake of a Merrill Lynch report which said the worst of the global semiconductor sector downturn was over as it raised its opinion on the sector and upgraded its recommendations on 12 chip stocks worldwide.

The Merrill report also sent Japanese stocks surging up nearly four percent on Thursday and gave a boost to other Asian bourses.