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Chip stocks underperform (SOXX -1.5%) after the SIA reports industry sales fell 8.9% M/M and 3.8% Y/Y in February. Bernstein points out the M/M drop is much worse than a 3.4% historical average. Microprocessor sales are estimated to have fallen 14% M/M, but the fact Intel (INTC -2%) and AMD (AMD -1.2%) no longer provide data to the SIA affects the reliability of that number. Memory sales (inc. DRAM and NAND) grew thanks to both higher bit shipments and prices.
Just 3 chip manufacturers - Intel (INTC), Samsung (SSNLF.PK), and TSMC (TSM) - will account for 57% of 2013 chip industry capex, estimates IC insights. That figure, up from 2012's 54%, drives home the extent chip equipment maker fortunes now hinge on the spending plans of a handful of firms, and also the big lead the industry giants have opened up in economies of scale relative to smaller rivals. IC Insights expects total industry capex to grow 2% this year to $59.8B, after falling 11% last year.
Chip stocks are outperforming (SOXX +2%) in the wake of Marvell's FQ4 beat and solid guidance, and Texas Instruments' dividend/buyback hike. Also norteworthy: 1) SEMI estimates the book-to-bill for North American chip equipment makers rose to 1.14 in January; that's up from 0.92 in December, and the first reading above 1 since May '12. 2) Taiwanese analog chipmakers posted strong January sales thanks to demand from LED and smartphone clients; the results could be a positive leading indicator.
Telecom chipmakers Cavium (CAVM +7.5%) and PMC-Sierra (PMCS +13.7%) soar after delivering Q4 beats (I, II), and contribute to a decent rally in chip stocks (SOXX +1.9%). Cavium guided on its Q4 call for Q1 revenue of $68.5M-$70.5M and EPS of $0.17-$0.19 vs. a consensus of $69.1M and $0.17. PMC guided on its call for Q1 revenue of $123M-$132M, largely above a $124.7M consensus. The numbers come amidst growing optimism (I, II) about 2013 telecom capex. Peers Broadcom (BRCM +2%), Marvell (MRVL +3.1%), and LSI (LSI +4.7%) are all doing well.
Leading IT hardware/component distributor Avnet (AVT +4.9%), often seen as a tech bellwether, is moving higher after easily beating FQ2 estimates. FQ3 guidance is for revenue of $5.95B-$6.55B and EPS of $0.81-$0.91, mostly above a consensus of $5.95B and $0.78. On a pro forma basis, chip sales fell 2.2% Y/Y and hardware sales 9.6%. Asia delivered positive growth for both segments, while the opposite held for the Americas and EMEA. Arrow (ARW +3.1%) is up in sympathy. CC at 2PM ET (webcast). (PR) (CFO review)
TSMC (TSM +2.5%) has hit levels last seen during the Dot.com bubble after delivering an in-line Q4 report (revenue was already known thanks to monthly reports) and guiding for a smaller Q/Q sales drop for seasonally weak Q1 than was expected. The world's top chip foundry claims 22% of Q4 wafer sales involved its cutting-edge 28nm process - TSMC struggled with 28nm yield issues earlier in 2012. Chip stocks are getting a lift from the report (SOXX +1.4%), and from ASML's guidance.
Chip stocks are outperforming (SOXX +1.1%) in spite of receiving soft top-line numbers from Linear Tech (LLTC +1.4%): the chipmaker missed FQ2 revenue estimates and guided for FQ3 Q/Q revenue growth of 1%-4%, below a 5% consensus. S&P 500 chip companies are already expected to post a 28.7% Y/Y earnings drop for calendar Q4 (per Thomson Reuters), thus expectations are quite low. Intel (INTC +0.9%) reports tomorrow: the consensus revenue forecast of $13.51B is below the midpoint of the chip giant's $13.1B-$14.1B guidance range.
A day after TSMC (TSM -0.1%) reported healthy December sales, occasionally-accurate Digitimes writes "industry watchers" expect TSMC to report a 7%-11% Q/Q sales drop for seasonally weak Q1, a range largely below estimates. Top clients such as QCOM, BRCM, TXN, and NXPI have reportedly "started to slow down orders" due to inventory adjustments," and wafer starts for MediaTek and Spreadtrum (SPRD) are seen falling 10%-20%. It's worth noting the article follows multiple reports of iPhone chip order cuts - several TSMC clients are iPhone suppliers.
TSMC (TSM +2.3%) provides some cheer for chip stocks by announcing sales for the seasonally weak month of December were NT$37.1B ($1.28B), -16% M/M but +19% Y/Y. That leads total Q4 sales to amount to NT$131.3B, slightly above guidance of NT$129B-$131B. TSMC's 28nm manufacturing process lead and strong exposure to Apple/Samsung suppliers helped it gain chip foundry share in 2012. (previous)
In what could be a sign chip stocks have more than priced in their fill of bad news, Freescale (FSL +0.5%), a pretty diversified chipmaker, has closed higher in spite of being hit with a downgrade to Neutral from JPMorgan. The firm notes Freescale has rallied 55% from its Nov. bottom (shares are still well below their 52-week high), and thinks "persistent weakness" in automotive, networking, and industrial chip sales will lead to just 3% revenue growth in 2013. CEO Gregg Lowe provided a cautious outlook on chip demand last month.
Chip stocks are outperforming (SOXX +3.4%) after the SIA reports global chip sales rose 8.5% Y/Y in November, albeit while falling 1.3% M/M. Though year-ago figures were depressed by an inventory correction and some were expecting a M/M increase, the sector has already priced in quite a bit of bad news. Equipment maker Lam Research (LRCX +5.5%) is one of the standouts after D.A. Davidson starts coverage with a Buy and $56 PT.
IDC sees global chip sales rising 4.9% in 2013 to $319B, a forecast that's nearly even with Gartner's 4.5%. However, the computing segment is expected to grow a mere 1.7%, as the PC industry's woes continue pressuring sales. The consumer segment is expected to grow a healthier 9.8%, as the tablet boom offsets slumping demand for consoles, DVD players, and other hardware. The communications segment is seen growing 6.5%, buoyed by surging 4G chip sales. (previous)
O2Micro (OIIM) warns it expects Q4 revenue of $16M-$17M, below prior guidance of $17M-$20M and a consensus of $18.6M. The company, no stranger to warnings, blames "broad-based weakness in demand in our end markets, coupled with lower than normal inventories being held in the supply chain." At least a few other chipmakers have similar problems. Shares are likely to fall after rising 8% in regular trading. (PR)
Freescale (FSL) CEO Gregg Lowe says he doesn't see any evidence global chip sales will soon rebound, even though Q4 is set to be the 6th straight quarter of Y/Y shipment declines. Gartner is slightly more positive, forecasting industry sales will rise 4.5% in 2013 after falling 3% in 2012. Rising NAND flash memory and ASIC sales, fueled by respective 33% and 38.5% increases in smartphone and tablet shipments, are expected to drive the increase, even as PC sales remain weak.
Tessera (TSRA) -6.9% AH after warning it expects Q4 revenue of $50M-$53M, well below the $73.5M estimated by the one analyst who covers the company. Chip packaging IP revenue is expected to fall to $42M-$43M from Q3's $57.9M, and camera module sales to $8M-$10M from Q3's $14.8M. No explanation is given for the warning, which is harsh even in light of the ones recently issued by Altera and Lattice Semi.
Texas Instruments (TXN +3.8%) is up after providing a guidance update that's being received favorably in light of industry and company-specific issues. During its update call, TI noted the wireless processor/connectivity business it's exiting will post a Q4 loss on revenue of ~$200M, and that those sales should be gone by 2014. Computing, industrial, and telecom infrastructure chip demand is also weak, though console and e-reader demand is healthy - that last bit could be a positive for AMZN and BKS. Chip stocks are outperforming (SOXX +2%). (Audi deal)