2 Major Semiconductor Upgrades That Cannot Be Ignored

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The tech sector rally has been somewhat muted in September, after helping push the broad markets to new highs. Does this mean the air is coming out of the rally ahead of a potential rate hike? Possibly, but a couple of analysts have picked out a few stocks that can weather this storm and then some.

Credit Suisse has upgraded KLA-Tencor Corp. (NASDAQ: KLAC) to an Outperform rating from Neutral and raised its price target to $85. The firm also lifted its fiscal 2017 earnings estimate to $5.34 per share from $4.64.

While the merger with Lam Research Corp. (NASDAQ: LRCX) is unlikely to close in the firm’s view, it sees the stock as attractive on standalone valuations. Credit Suisse also sees potential for multiple expansion from here, given premium operating profit margin and 3% dividend yield (with potential for dividend increase). The firm continues to view Applied Materials Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAT) and Lam Research favorably, but view KLA-Tencor as the top pick for the rest of 2016, given near-term upside to estimates.

Credit Suisse detailed the merger risk in its report:

Given the 15% correction in KLAC’s stock price on Aug 10, we believe most of the downside from breakup is already priced in – KLAC has lower NTM PE now than prior to deal announcement while market multiple have expanded. In the scenario that the merger is completed we see potential upside to about $79 by year end -implying 30%+ annualized return.

Furthermore, Bernstein raised Texas Instruments Inc. (NASDAQ: TXN) to an Outperform rating from Market Perform, and boosted the price target to $80 from $70. Overall, the firm believes that TI can improve gross margins from 60% or so up to 64% from manufacturing efficiencies, cost cuts and cost management, and then from a better mix of chip products that will drive higher benefits ahead.

While admittedly the stock is not cheap, Bernstein does not see the price as egregious either. The firm opined that TI’s valuation multiples are more or less equal to other high quality semiconductor peers.

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Shares of KLA-Tencor were trading at $69.24 on Tuesday. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $76.70 to $46.76 to $77.85.

Lam Research shares were last seen at $91.80, with a consensus price target of $101.39 and a 52-week range of $61.20 to $95.77.

Applied Materials traded at $29.18, within a 52-week range of $14.29 to $30.41. The consensus price target is $32.76.

Texas Instruments was trading at $67.57. The consensus price target is $71.57. The 52-week range is $45.33 to $72.58.