Merrill Lynch’s Top Semiconductor Stocks to Buy Ahead of Earnings Season

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The analyst team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch has become more bullish on selective semiconductor stocks ahead of this earnings season. One of the top drivers is of course the new iPhone 6 upgrade cycle, but there is also a belief that the company will win from a stabilizing PC market and a growing data center segment. Even a wireless infrastructure upside may offset weaker macro trends for industrial and auto segments.

Merrill Lynch’s call is for six semiconductor stocks to be the best for earnings season, which implies that these are the firm’s top chip stocks for 2014. These are Merrill Lynch’s top chip stocks.

Merrill Lynch recommends taking advantage of volatility in product cycle semis trading at attractive valuations. Stocks levered to Apple’s new iPhone (Avago, Skyworks, NXP, RF Micro) are expected to beat expectations in the third and fourth quarters.

Merrill Lynch expects third-quarter PC growth to be driven by the continuation of the enterprise refresh cycle, in addition to growth in consumer PCs. Expectations are that tablets will no longer cannibalize PC sales, as low-end emerging market tablet demand has become oversaturated.

While investors are more focused on China LTE units, the more important story, which often gets lost in the noise, is semiconductor content growth, especially for RF components and NFC components. Merrill Lynch prefers Skyworks, Avago, RF Micro and NXP.

ALSO READ: 5 Top Chip Stocks That Could Surge in the Fourth Quarter

Data center orders are expected to slow and remain lumpy as the market enters a digestion period following a strong second quarter. Intel and Broadcom are preferred by Merrill Lynch because of Intel’s dominance in computers and storage. Also the risk of lower infrastructure sales is already factored into Broadcom’s stock.

Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) closed Monday at $34.03. Merrill Lynch has a price target of $43, with an implied upside of 26.4%. The company has a dividend yield of 2.6%, a consensus analyst price target of $34.18 and a 52-week trading range of $22.48 to $35.56.

Skyworks Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ: SWKS) closed Monday at $55.25. Merrill Lynch’s price target is $60, for an implied upside of 8.6%. The dividend yield is 0.8%, the consensus analyst price target is $62.16 and the 52-week trading range is $23.27 to $59.25.

Broadcom Corp. (NASDAQ: BRCM) ended Monday at $38.87. Merrill Lynch has a price target of $50, with an implied upside of 28.6%. Its dividend yield is 1.2%, the consensus analyst price target is $43.31 and the 52-week trading range is $24.60 to $41.65.

RF Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: RFMD) closed Monday at $10.89. Merrill Lynch’s price target is $13, for an implied upside of 19.4%. RF Micro has a consensus price target of $13.62 and a 52-week trading range $4.50 to $12.98.

NXP Semiconductors N.V. (NASDAQ: NXPI) shares closed at $67.37. Merrill Lynch has a price target of $81, with an implied upside of 20.2%. NXP has a consensus price target of $75.73 and a 52-week trading range $35.09 to $73.82.

Avago Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: AVGO) closed Monday at $83.47. Merrill Lynch has a price target of $100 and an implied upside of 19.8%. The dividend yield is near 1.5%. The stock has a consensus price target of $93.76 and a 52-week trading range $41.83 to $90.88.

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