Chip equipment stocks drop on ASML's guidance cut, commentary


ASML (ASML -5.5%) has lowered its 1H14 sales outlook. Moreover, the lithography equipment kingpin says logic IC customers are "encountering timing uncertainties in next-generation device designs" for 2H, and that NAND flash memory makers are "continuing their evaluation of [3D] NAND and future-node planar technologies, resulting in uncertainties for system demand."

ASML's remarks about logic customers might partly be a reference to Intel, which has reportedly delayed the launch of its 14nm Broadwell CPUs. NAND vendors have been keeping a lid on capex for some time; recent price pressure might encourage them to do so.

Chip equipment peers Applied Materials (AMAT -2%), KLA-Tencor (KLAC -2.5%), Lam Research (LRCX -2.5%), Axcelis (ACLS -2.6%), Camtek (CAMT -5.8%), and Ultratech (UTEK -0.9%) are off in sympathy. Compared with many other tech companies, the group has held up well during the March/April selloff.

One silver lining: ASML says multiple customers are qualifying 10nm EUV lithography equipment, and that it expects to recognize revenue on 8 EUV systems in 2014. Investments in both EUV and 450mm wafers have been delayed.

Gartner has forecast chip wafer fab equipment spend will grow 14.9% in 2014 to $31B, after falling 9.1% in 2013.

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