With less than a week left in the third quarter, earnings reports soon will be flying fast and furious, and many investors are trying to get their portfolios set for what traditionally is a solid performance time for the markets. While October can still be jammed with volatility, November through January is often a good period to be long stocks, and this year technology looks like a good sector to overweight for the stretch run.
The heavily tech-weighted Nasdaq has had a nice bounce off the late June Brexit lows and looks to be breaking out to new highs. We screened the Merrill Lynch research universe for tech stocks that are rated Buy at the firm and pay a solid dividend, and ones that could be ready to report solid third-quarter results too. We found four that look outstanding for long-term growth portfolios.
This semiconductor capital equipment leader has moved up nicely this year after underperforming. Applied Materials Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAT) is the global leader in precision materials engineering solutions for the semiconductor, flat panel display and solar photovoltaic industries. Applied Material’s technologies help make innovations like smartphones, flat screen TVs and solar panels more affordable and accessible to consumers and businesses around the world.
The analysts are very positive on the stock and see Applied Materials benefiting not only the semiconductor side of the business, but also from larger, higher resolution and flexible screens on the display side of the business. Despite reporting solid first-quarter earnings that were above consensus, and guidance that was in line with expectations, the stock is still very reasonably priced. It may very well be one of the best technology values available for investors today. Some Wall Street analysts see continued FinFET capacity expansion (10nm/14nm/16nm) and transition to 3D NAND, with DRAM spending remaining strong next year.
Earlier this year the company announced a new $2 billion share buyback program, which comes on the heels of a recently completed $3 billion program. Merrill Lynch sees the purchase plan as being approximately 8% accretive to earnings.
Shareholders receive a 1.35% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $35. The Wall Street consensus target is at $33.50. Shares ended Friday at $29.66.
This leader in semiconductors is working hard to scale away from dependence on personal computers. Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) designs, manufactures and sells integrated digital technology platforms worldwide. The company’s platforms are used in various computing applications comprising notebooks, two-in-one systems, desktops, servers, tablets, smartphones, wireless and wired connectivity products, wearables, retail devices and manufacturing devices, as well as for retail, transportation, industrial, buildings, home use and other market segments.
The company also provides communication and connectivity offerings, such as baseband processors, radio frequency transceivers and power management integrated circuits, and tablet, phone and Internet of Things solutions, which include multimode 4G LTE modems, Bluetooth technology and GPS receivers, software solutions and interoperability tests, as well as home gateway and set-top box components.
Intel reported an inline second quarter, but data center sales came in way below expectations, a trend the analyst thinks reverses in the fourth quarter and 2017. In addition, a new partnership with Microsoft for virtual reality, and a consistent shift away for reliance on chips for personal computers, keeps the stock a compelling buy.
Intel investors receive a 2.8% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $45 price target, while the consensus target is $40.38. The shares closed Friday at $37.19.