Micron Earnings Surprise a Huge Positive for Top Semiconductor Equipment Stocks

March 22, 2019 by 247lee

If there was any report that tech investors were dreading it was the one from Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU), as most on Wall Street anticipated the worst. Surprisingly, the company reported reasonably good numbers this week. While the capital expenditures came in at the low end of guidance, and 3D NAND spending will be reduced, DRAM spending will be moving forward.

These positives are a sigh of relief for those in the semiconductor capital equipment space, and though nobody is pounding the table, the setup for the latter half of 2019 and into 2020 could be extremely positive.

A new Stifel research report from highlights the positives and noted this:

From a big picture perspective, there were not many major surprises from Micron’s commentary as it relates to its capex spending trends. We have previously noted the reduction in wafer starts to meet current inventory conditions, but management still projected an improvement in both DRAM and 3D NAND business trends in the second half of calendar 2019. We believe this outlook is one variable that could lead to a more favorable turn in capex spending before the end of 2019. An improved inventory outlook and demand trends would make it easier to resume new capacity additions to meet industry demand.

The Stifel team is positive on seven top companies, but here we focused on four that offer outstanding potential going forward.

Applied Materials

This semiconductor capital equipment leader is on the Stifel Select List. 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 on the semiconductor side of the business but also from larger, higher resolution and flexible screens on the display side of the business.

Applied Materials remains the top pick at Stifel, and the firm believes the company will continue to outperform in the wafer fab equipment arena.

Investors in Applied Materials are paid a 1.58% dividend. The Stifel price target for the shares is $53, and the Wall Street consensus target was last seen at $48.38. The stock closed Thursday’s trading up a big 4.4% to $41.33 per share.

Lam Research

This remains one of the top chip equipment picks across Wall Street. Lam Research Corp. (NASDAQ: LRCX) designs, manufactures, markets, refurbishes and services semiconductor processing equipment used in the fabrication of integrated circuits. The company offers plasma etch products that remove materials from the wafer to create the features and patterns of a device.

Many Wall Street analysts have highlighted the company and its peers as having a significant equipment opportunity from the NAND evolution as well. Lam Research also appears well positioned to gain share in the wafer fab equipment market, driven by a strong focus on technology inflection spending over the next few years.

The Stifel analysts like the company’s exposure to memory, and they feel the continued strength in the sector is a positive for the coming year. They also think fears of capital intensity are overblown and the company will outpace industry wafer fab equipment trends.

Shareholders of Lam Research are paid a 2.50% dividend. Stifel has a price target of $209, and the posted consensus price objective is $194.58. The shares closed most recently at $183.80, up almost 5% on the day.

MKS Instruments

This stock flies somewhat under the radar but offers solid upside. MKS Instruments Inc. (NASDAQ: MKSI) provides instruments, subsystems and process control solutions that measure, control, power, monitor and analyze critical parameters of manufacturing processes in the United States and internationally.

MKS offers pressure measurement and control products used for various pressure ranges and accuracies; materials delivery products, including gas flow measurement products and vacuum valves; automation and control products, such as automation platforms, programmable automation controllers, temperature controllers and software solutions for use in automation, I/O and distributed programmable I/O, gateways and connectivity products; and vacuum products comprising vacuum containment components, effluent management subsystems and custom stainless steel chambers, vessels and pharmaceutical process equipment hardware and housings.

Many on Wall Street have felt for some time that the increase in the Applied Material’s display equipment business will have positive implications for MKS as it supplies many key subsystems for Applied’s display tools. In addition, MKS acquired Newport recently and added the company’s iconic Spectra-Physics laser brand to its product lineup.

MKS shareholders receive just a 0.65% dividend. The $106 Stifel price target compares with the $101.57 consensus estimate. Shares closed at $92.57 on Thursday, up more than 5% on the day.

Ichor

This is another stock that may be off the radar for some, but it also could be a beneficiary from the positive news, and it is on the Stifel Select List. Ichor Holdings Ltd. (NASDAQ: ICHR) is engaged in the design, engineering and manufacturing of critical fluid delivery subsystems for semiconductor capital equipment. The company’s primary offerings include gas and chemical delivery subsystems, collectively known as fluid delivery subsystems, which are key elements of the process tools used in the manufacturing of semiconductor devices.

Ichor’s gas delivery subsystems deliver, monitor and control precise quantities of the specialized gases used in semiconductor manufacturing processes, such as etch and deposition. Its chemical delivery subsystems precisely blend and dispense the reactive liquid chemistries used in semiconductor manufacturing processes, such as chemical-mechanical planarization electroplating and cleaning.

The Stifel team has set a $28 price target. The consensus target is $26, and the shares closed on Thursday at $22.86, after climbing close to 4% on the day.

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These four outstanding stocks to buy are all way down from their 52-week highs. The recent market volatility is a legitimate concern, so it makes sense to scale-buy shares rather than go all-in. With that in mind, it is very possible that by this time next year, some serious money can be made.