Don’t look now, but the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index is starting to show signs of life. It’s up 6.5 percent since November 16, after a 15 percent pullback between September and October. The SOX outperformed Thursday, rising 1.1 percent to 378.63. It’s back above its 200-day simple moving average (SMA) which brings a trip to its 50-day SMA around 390 into play.
Chip stocks got a lift Thursday after Broadcom (NYSE: BRCM [FREE Stock Trend Analysis]) raised its fourth quarter earnings guidance, citing upside in mobile and wireless. It also lowered its outlook for operating expenses. Investors also like news it would supply sample chips supporting Long Term Evolution (LTE), a wireless technology being adopted by wireless providers around the world. Shares popped 3.2 percent to $33.36 in heavy volume, a solid day of accumulation for the chip designer.
Broadcom is a bellwether in the industry, but the stock is still 16 percent from its 52-week high. Other names in the space are still in the early stages of growth and closer to highs which means there’s better potential for outperformance in 2013.
Even though it’s extended in price currently, ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH) is one of the better-looking names in the chip space. It’s a U.K.-based chip designer with a strong presence in the smartphone and tablet market. It licenses its technology to scads of large-cap tech names, including Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL). It has a market capitalization of $16.7 billion and it’s liquid with an average daily volume of 2.1 million shares.
Investors cheered its latest earnings report after the company said earnings rose 29 percent from a year ago to $0.18 a share. Sales growth accelerated sequentially, rising 24 percent to $233.5 million. Full-year profit is seen rising 21 percent this year (compared to 2011) and 23 percent in 2013.
For investors who missed the breakout over $29 when ARMH gapped up on October 23, there will be another chance to buy it — patience for now because the stock needs to consolidate gains for a bit before a new buy point emerges. A logical support area for ARMH would be its 10-week moving average, currently around $32.75. It may not get down that far, but watch for tight weekly closes from here where the stock stays underneath its recent high of $37.41. If this happens, a new upside breakout could take shape.
Meanwhile, shares of chipmaker Cree (Nasdaq: CREE) remain under accumulation — something that not too many chipmakers can say at the moment. It’s also impressive because Deutsche Bank recently downgraded the stock to hold from buy. The stock fell six percent on the news but found initial support at its 20-day SMA. Shares rallies smartly on Thursday, up 3.1 percent to $32.70.
The company makes light emitting diode products, lighting products and semiconductor products. After a period of sluggish growth between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2012, annual earnings growth is expected to ramp up nicely over the next two years. Fiscal 2013 earnings are seeing rising 26 percent (compared to 2012) with fiscal 2014 earnings up 39 percent.
Finally, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing’s (NYSE: TSM) relative price strength is tough to ignore as the calendar gets ready to turn to 2013. It’s another chip name under accumulation, but after a recent technical breakout over $15.64, it’s also extended in price. Its 10-week moving average around $16 looks like a solid support level.
Demand for the company’s mobile integrated circuits remains strong. In its latest reported quarter, earnings jumped 68 percent from a year ago to $0.32. Sales rose 38 percent to $4.8 billion
For the fourth quarter, the consensus estimate calls for earning of $0.27 a share, up 35 percent from a year ago with sales up 28 percent to $4.4 billion.