Merrill Lynch Says Buy These 5 Out-of-Favor Tech Stocks Now


This is another strong, large-cap play for investors. KLA-Tencor Corp. (NASDAQ: KLAC) designs, manufactures and markets process control and yield management solutions worldwide.

It offers chip manufacturing products, such as front-end defect inspection tools, defect review systems, advanced packaging process control systems, metrology solutions, in-situ process monitoring products and lithography software; wafer manufacturing products comprising surface and defect inspection, wafer geometry and nanotopography metrology and data management; and reticle manufacturing products, such as defect inspection and pattern placement metrology products.

The company also provides light emitting diode (LED), power device and compound semiconductor manufacturing products consisting of patterned wafer inspection, defect inspection, surface metrology and data management products; thin-film head metrology and inspection, virtual lithography, in-situ process monitoring, transparent and metal substrate inspection and data management products for data storage media/head manufacturing; and stylus and optical profiling and optical inspection products for microelectromechanical systems manufacturing, as well as products for general purpose/lab applications.

Many analysts feel that KLA-Tencor is less cyclical than peers with best-in-class returns. The Orbotech purchase adds growth/diversity and sales/earnings per share accretion. Risks for the shares include industry cyclicality, relatively muted growth and limited operating leverage.

Shareholders receive a 2.87% dividend. The $140 Merrill Lynch price objective compares to the $136.14 consensus estimate. Shares closed Friday at $104.52.

Micron Technology

This is a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems. Micron Technology Inc.’s (NASDAQ: MU) broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies, including DRAM, NAND and NOR flash, is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Its memory chip solutions enable the world’s most innovative computing, consumer, enterprise storage, networking, mobile, embedded and automotive applications.

Micron and Intel announced last year the availability of their 3D NAND technology, the world’s highest-density flash memory. Flash is the storage technology used inside the lightest laptops, fastest data centers and nearly every cell phone, tablet and mobile device.

The company posted outstanding quarterly earnings recently and also provided forward guidance that exceeded Wall Street estimates. With memory demand drivers remaining somewhat underappreciated and with solid demand from end-markets such as data center, artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning, big data, mobile and autonomous driving, Micron continues to execute well on its manufacturing roadmap despite recent issues.

The Merrill Lynch price target is a stunning $85. The consensus target is $80.10, and shares closed Friday at $44.74.

Western Digital

This is a leader in the total addressable hard disk drive (HDD) market. Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ: WDC) designs, manufactures and markets hard disk drives for use in enterprise storage, servers, desktop and laptop computers and consumer electronic devices. It also has a growing solid state drive and storage systems portfolio and is currently the third-largest enterprise solid state drive manufacturer.

The company is responding to changing market needs by providing a full portfolio of compelling, high-quality storage products with effective technology deployment, high efficiency, flexibility and speed. Its products are marketed under the HGST and WD brands to original equipment manufacturers, distributors, resellers, cloud infrastructure providers and consumers.

The analysts feel the company’s business mix switch to NAND flash could provide earnings momentum and growth as compared to the rather flat revenue streams from the HDD product line. In addition, personal computers account for 50% of hard disk drive sales and the improved performance at Dell and overall PC sales bodes well for the company in 2018 and beyond.

Shareholders receive a 3.29% dividend. Merrill Lynch has set its price target at $110. The consensus target is $100.59, and shares closed at $60.72.

These five stocks have big upside to the Merrill Lynch price targets and also offer investors perhaps a more comfortable entry point. There is a good chance the market could start to trade sideways to down for the balance of 2018 as investors take fourth-quarter profits, and these could be good vehicles for that move.

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