The run in the semiconductor industry has been stunning, as it has gone on for well over two years. But as has been the case in the industry for the past 30 years, it remains cyclical, and there are signs that industry growth is slowing. With the exception of memory, which still appears to be in good shape, industry sales appear to have peaked in the middle of 2017 and continue to fade.
A new SunTrust Robinson Humphrey research report from William Stein and the semiconductor team, while conceding fourth-quarter 2017 results showed year-over-year growth, chalks that up to Apple’s iPhone seasonality.
The SunTrust report noted this:
The most significant fundamental risk to semis today is that shortages in complementary passive & discrete components could limit semi industry sales growth later this year. Our fourth quarter CyclePath analysis shows that despite a growth blip, our indicators (and bellwether clues) all suggest shortages are causing customers to tap the brakes on semis orders.
The analysts remain very positive on two top semiconductor companies, and another two also have Buy ratings. All remain good choices for aggressive growth accounts.
This company has reported strong earnings over the past two years and remains the top large-cap pick at SunTrust. Nvidia Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA) is one of the leaders when it comes to supplying graphics processing technology for the 3D graphics market, including desktop graphics processors and gaming consoles.
Nvidia is also moving into visual computing chips for cars, mobile devices and supercomputers. The company has been able to use its ability to leverage past investments, with a more controlled spending structure ahead on unified, which enables strong cash flow that is allowing a focus on capital return, which is currently estimated to be $1 billion next year.
Top analysts feel the stock is maturing to a platform company from a pure chip company, and Jefferies sees the stock continuing to benefit from four secular trends: virtual reality, PC gaming, chips in the automobile industry and graphic processing units (GPUs) in the cloud.
Once again the company recently shredded earnings expectations, and it guided April quarter sales 17.5% ahead of consensus. Data Center revenues grew more than 100% for the seventh consecutive quarter.
Nvidia investors receive a 0.28% dividend. The SunTrust price target is $305, and the Wall Street consensus target is $251.12. The shares closed Tuesday at $249.08.
Monolithic Power Systems
This off-the-radar play that could be offering continued upside potential is the top small/midcap pick for 2018 at SunTrust. Monolithic Power Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: MPWR) designs, develops and markets integrated power semiconductor solutions and power delivery architectures for consumer, industrial, computing and storage, and communications market segments.
The company offers direct current (DC) to DC converter integrated circuits (ICs) used to convert and control voltages of various electronic systems, such as portable electronic devices, wireless LAN access points, computers, monitors, automobiles and medical equipment.
It also provides lighting control ICs for backlighting that are used in systems, which provide the light source for LCD panels in notebook computers, monitors, car navigation systems and televisions, as well as for general illumination applications. In addition, it offers alternating current (AC)/DC offline solutions for lighting illumination applications and AC/DC power conversion solutions for various end products that plug into a wall outlet.
Shareholders receive a 0.68% dividend. SunTrust has a $135 price objective, while the consensus target price is $127.43. Shares ended on Tuesday at $119.68.
This stock also could have very solid upside potential for 2018. TTM Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: TTMI) is a manufacturer of printed circuit board (PCB) products and is focused on technologically advanced PCBs and electro-mechanical solutions. As of January 2, 2017, the company operated a total of 25 specialized facilities in North America and China.
The company’s PCB segment operates 13 domestic PCB fabrication plants, including a facility that provides follow-on value-added services primarily for one of the PCB fabrication plants, as well as eight PCB fabrication plants in China and one in Canada. A PCB provides that electrical connections between the components using (mostly) copper traces and pads that the electronic components (chips, resistors and the like) can be soldered. The company offers a range of PCB products, including conventional, high-density interconnect, flexible and rigid-flex PCBs, and custom assemblies and system integration, and IC substrates.
The $20 SunTrust price target is near the $19 consensus target. The stock closed on Tuesday at $15.94.
This company could benefit from continued industrial demand. Microsemi Corp. (NASDAQ: MSCC) offers a comprehensive portfolio of semiconductor and system solutions for communications, defense and security, aerospace and industrial markets.
Products include high-performance and radiation-hardened analog mixed-signal integrated circuits, power management products; timing and synchronization devices and precise time solutions, setting the world’s standard for time; voice processing devices; radio frequency solutions; security technologies and scalable anti-tamper products; Ethernet solutions; Power-over-Ethernet ICs and midspans.
The SunTrust price target is $70. The consensus target is $69.27, and shares closed Tuesday at $61.46.
SunTrust has been cautious for some time, so this is not a new call on the industry. While it is somewhat contrarian, given the massive run, it is probably very timely. When the sellers do step-in, they will be followed quickly by the short sellers, which could exacerbate things to the downside.