Intel (INTC) recently warned that third quarter financial results would not meet expectations. This caused the stock to drop almost $1 per share, to about $24, even as the markets have been in rally mode thanks to a new bond buying program in Europe. The size of the revenue miss was substantial: revenue estimates are now expected to be around $13.8 billion versus prior estimates that were as high as about $14.8 billion. Considering that it is coming from an industry leader like Intel, it could mean that investors should take this seriously and realize that other companies are almost certainly going to be facing a rough quarter or two, going forward. A recent Reuters article sums up the troublesome warning from Intel, and it states:
"A revision of Intel targets had been expected by some analysts after PC makers Hewlett Packard Co (HPQ) and Dell Inc (DELL) warned of slow demand last month, a development that has been compounded by a shaky global economy and consumers shifting toward tablets and smartphones. But the 8 percent reduction in the top chipmaker's revenue outlook was much more severe than expected. Intel also withdrew its full-year forecast."
The fact that Intel withdrew the full-year forecast, and that the company is already seeing a slowdown from government entities, is ominous because the United States Government is poised to see mandated budget cuts in just a few months. Many investors are calling this a "fiscal cliff" that could hit the economy as rising taxes and reduced government spending occur in the next few months. Although Intel shares dropped about 4% on the news of the revenue warning, the stock market has been hitting highs that have not been seen for over 4 years. It seems that many investors are hoping for more quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve, and that few are taking the fiscal cliff seriously. That could be a big mistake, especially since countries like Spain and Greece have seen economic activity plunge after a government spending was cut and taxes were raised. Intel's warning could be a sign of things to come, and investors should consider selling other tech stocks. Here are 3 stocks that could be heading lower in the coming weeks and months:
Applied Materials (AMAT) manufactures equipment that is used to make semiconductors, solar products and other related goods. It sells to many major chipmakers, including companies like Intel. That is why a slowdown at Intel could lead to similar weakness for Applied Materials. This stock traded down to about $10 per share in June and July, but it has recently rebounded to around $12. Based on the industry dynamics and a significantly higher than average earnings multiple of over 16, this stock appears overpriced. Investors might want to sell on this rally and wait for another potential buying opportunity around $10.
Key Data Points For Applied Materials From Yahoo Finance:
Current Share Price: $11.86
52-Week Range: $9.70 to $13.94
Dividend: 38 cents which yields 3.2%
2012 Earnings Estimate: 73 cents per share
2013 Earnings Estimate: 81 cents per share
P/E Ratio: about 16.5 times earnings
NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA) designs and manufactures specialized semiconductors that are used in many electronic goods such as computers and smart phones. It makes graphics cards that are used in gaming computers and other high-resolution applications. Since this company derives a major portion of it's annual revenues from the PC industry, it might see weakness in the third quarter as well. One positive is that NVIDIA appears to be less exposed to orders from government entities. This stock found support at about $11.75 per share in June which might be the buying opportunity to wait for, if it corrects again.
Key Data Points For NVIDIA From Yahoo Finance:
Current Share Price: $13.40
52-Week Range: $11.47 to $16.90
2012 Earnings Estimate: 90 cents per share
2013 Earnings Estimate: $1.08 per share
P/E Ratio: about 14 times earnings
Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) recently introduced "Windows 8", which is the latest version of its popular operating system. Windows 8 offers numerous new features plus increased compatibility across various platforms including mobile devices. Historically, a new operating system from Microsoft can set off an upgrade cycle that leads to many consumers and businesses into buying new desktops, laptops, printers, monitors and other related products. However, this time the market reaction seems more muted, possibly due to the popularity of tablets like the iPad, and also because of a fragile global economy. A recent CNBC article summarizes the concerns of one analyst at Citigroup (C), and it states:
"We were looking into the supply chain over the course of August, and really everywhere you looked, PC data points are bad. What we're ultimately going to end up with is the worst third quarter in the history of PCs this quarter, so obviously the outlook is pretty dire," he said on "Fast Money."
The article goes on to say:
"Normally, when we see an upgrade cycle in an cycle, it does stimulate PC demand," he said. "I would point out that this is the first time ever that Microsoft has changed operating systems, and it's not just PCs. This time, there's a tablet involved, there's a smartphone involved."
With PC sales coming in weak, expectations for a Windows 8 upgrade cycle might be too high. If so, it could be smart to sell Microsoft shares on the recent rally, and buy back at lower prices. Since June, Microsoft shares have traded in the $28 range at least a couple of times and it could be headed back to that level soon.
Key Data Points For Microsoft From Yahoo Finance:
Current Share Price: $30.95
52-Week Range: $24.26 to $32.95
Dividend: 80 cents which yields 2.6%
2013 (fiscal year) Earnings Estimate: $3.01 per share
2014 (fiscal year) Earnings Estimate: $3.30 per share
P/E Ratio: about 10 times earnings
Data is sourced from Yahoo Finance. No guarantees or representations are made. Please consult a financial advisor before making investments.
Disclosure: I am long HPQ.