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Weaker-than-expected guidance from Broadcom, Altera, RF Micro, and STMicroelectronics has fueled a general selloff in chip stocks (SOXX -3.5%). Companies with strong mobile and/or telecom infrastructure exposure are seeing an outsized share of the damage.
The numbers call into question the strength of year-end demand from consumer electronics, enterprise hardware, and telecom equipment firms, and make a recent Wells Fargo downgrade of the sector look smart.
Chip stocks underperform following Wells Fargo downgrade
Wells Fargo's David Wong has cut his rating for the semiconductor industry to Market Perform, citing Intel and TSMC's (TSM +1.6%) Q4 guidance, and downbeat commentary from tech companies about electronics demand. That, along with an adverse reaction to AMD's Q3 numbers and Q4 guidance, is leading chip stocks to underperform (SOXX -0.2%) on a day when Internet stocks are flying higher thanks to Google.
Intel's guidance for seasonally strong Q4 implies only a 2% Q/Q sales increase at the midpoint. TSMC, which delivered its Q3 results yesterday, is guiding for Q4 revenue to fall to NT$144B-$147B ($4.9B-$5B) from Q3's NT$162.58B ($5.53B).
Though Q4 tends to be seasonally weak for foundries, TSMC did partly attribute its guidance to customer inventory adjustments and softening high-end mobile device demand.
Wong's downgrade is accompanied by ratings cuts for analog chipmakers International Rectifier and Monolithic Power. It comes two weeks after trade association SIA reported global chip sales rose 6.4% Y/Y in August; that was the fastest growth rate posted since March '11.
SIA: Chip sales post strongest Y/Y growth in 29 months
Trade association SIA estimates global chip sales rose 1.3% M/M and 6.4% Y/Y in August, the Y/Y figure represents not only an improvement from July's 5.1%, but the highest growth rate seen since March '11.
While strong memory chip sales (aided by mobile demand and favorable pricing) naturally contributed to the growth, SIA says demand for non-memory products also rose. The growth comes in spite of soft demand for PCs, home electronics, and servers.
CEVA (CEVA -12.8%) is ending the day with huge losses after Broadcom, which uses CEVA's DSP cores in its baseband chips, missed Q2 estimates and issued light Q3 guidance, while blaming the shortfall in large part on light baseband sales. Chip stocks on the whole have had a bad day (SOXX -1.8%), as Broadcom's numbers and a ho-hum report from ARM overshadow Apple's FQ3 beat. SIMG -3.8%. OVTI -2.8%. MU -3.9%. SNDK -2.4%. IMOS -4.5%. Broadcom set-top chip rival STMicroelectronics (STM -2.7%) has fallen for the second day in a row following its Q2 report and soft Q3 guidance, aided by a downgrade to Underperform from BofA.
Global chip sales rose 3.4% M/M in May, per the SIA's latest data. On a 3-month rolling average basis, they rose 4.6% M/M but just 1.3% Y/Y. Analysts are generally pleased. Though Evercore still expects a weak 2H, JPMorgan (6% 2013 growth forecast) notes sales are picking up following a weak Q1; Wedbush thinks both the data and its own checks suggest a chip recovery "continues at a healthy and steady pace;" and Wells Fargo (8%-10% 2013 forecast) likes the fact IC sales rose 6% Y/Y. Wells adds the ratio of chip equipment sales to IC sales remains low at 14%, which suggests equipment orders will eventually pick up. Chip equipment makers: AMAT, KLAC, LRCX, ASML, UTEK, RTEC. (Gartner)
Chip stocks outperform (SOXX +1.4%) after Microchip raises its June quarter guidance, and STMicroelectronics raises its 2013 guidance. Microchip rivals Texas Instruments (TXN +2.6%), Atmel (ATML +3.4%), and Freescale (FSL +2.1%) are among the winners, as is STMicroelectronics rival NXP (NXPI +3.6%). Also, Altera (ALTR +2.5%) is rallying with the help of an upgrade to Buy from Argus, and Intersil (ISIL +2.4%) is benefiting from a bullish coverage launch from Piper. Some chip ETFs: SMH, XSD, PSI, SOXL, USD, SOXS, SSG.
Microchip (MCHP) +4.5% after raising its FQ1 (ends June 30) guidance. The microcontroller vendor now expects 4%-7% Q/Q sales growth and EPS of $0.52-$0.56; that's better than prior guidance of 2%-6% growth and EPS of $0.50-$0.54, and largely above a consensus of $447.7M and $0.52. Microchip, often seen as a bellwether for chip stocks (SOXX, SMH), says it has "continued to see a very strong bookings and business environment," has "received excellent visibility" from customers, and is returning employees to work faster than expected to keep inventories from falling too low. Microchip's guidance hike comes after the SIA estimated chip sales fell 10% M/M in March, better than a historical drop of 15.3%.
Look for any piece of news that smacks of an improving economy to send stocks falling next week, warns CNBC's Jim Cramer. Why? Big money investors will interpret any positive economic signs as a signal that the Fed is about to pull back economic stimulus rather than risk runaway inflation. Still, he says, there may be opportunities in the pullback, particularly in the bank, tech and industrial spaces. Just says away from anything with a higher yield, like utilities and MLP's.
Chip stocks close with solid gains (SOXX +1.5%) after Avago beats April quarter estimates and makes encouraging comments about mobile, industrial, and enterprise networking demand. In addition to Avago's rivals and Cirrus Logic (previous), big winners include Fairchild (FCS +3.8%), SanDisk (SNDK +2.7%), Spreadtrum (SPRD +7.2%), and InvenSense (INVN +4.9%), as well as touchscreen controller suppliers Synaptics (SYNA +4.3%), Atmel (ATML +6.3%), and Cypress (CY +2.8%).
Samsung Electronics (SSNLF.PK) says its Q1 profit rose 42% to a record high on strong smartphone sales. Net profit rose to a record KRW7.15T ($6.4B), up from KRW5.05T a year earlier. Operating profit rose 54% to KRW8.8T from KRW5.7T. Sales rose 16.8% to KRW52.9T from KRW45.3T, coming in in line with the company's guidance of KRW51T to KRW53T. The results stand in stark contrast those of Apple (AAPL), which earlier this week reported its first profit drop in a decade and forecast margins to decline in the current quarter ending in June.
Are wireless chip stocks decoupling from Apple? Even with Apple off slightly as bleak June quarter guidance outweighs fresh capital returns, iPhone/iPad combo chip supplier Broadcom (BRCM +6.6%) is surging thanks to a Q1 beat and strong Q2 guidance, and is helping out some peers - QCOM +1.4%, SWKS +2.6%, INVN +1.8%, SNDK +1%. During its earnings call, Broadcom, which also provides combo chips for many Samsung phones, stated mobile chip sales only fell 1.6% Q/Q in seasonally weak Q1, and forecast sequential growth for the business (Apple-dependent Cirrus Logic sure isn't doing the same). Qualcomm reports after the close.
Chip stocks have a rough day (SOXX -2.8%) following Cirrus Logic's warning, light guidance from Linear Technology (LLTC -4.6%) to go with a Q1 beat - Linear sees 1%-4% Q/Q revenue growth for calendar Q2, below a 4.7% consensus - and ho-hum Q1 results/Q2 guidance from Intel. Apple suppliers Broadcom (BRCM -4%), Avago (AVGO -5.5%), STMicroelectronics (STM -6.7%), NXP (NXPI -7%), RF Micro (RFMD -2.8%), and OmniVision (OVTI -3.3%) are among the casualties, but they're far from alone. ANAD -6.2%. STM -5.7%. FSL -5%. ADI -4.5%. TXN -4.4%.
"The move to digital audio/video and the rise of powerful smartphones/tablets is shrinking the overall [semiconductor addressable market]," writes Barclays' Blayne Curtis in a gloomy note about chip stocks influenced by ugly Q1 PC data. "The growth profile in semis is much slower than many expect (low single digits vs. the 7-8% 20yr trend line)." Curtis has cut Broadcom (BRCM) by two notches to Underweight on a belief its combo chip business could be hurt by integrated platforms (ed: Broadcom seems to have a tech edge for now), but has left his other ratings intact.
Something for the technicians to have a look at is this chart from ukarlewitz noting small-caps (IWM) have joined the industrials (XLI) and semiconductors (SMH) in slipping below their long-term uptrend line. Oversold in an uptrend tends to get bought, he says. It's a key time.