EC Semiconductor Canaries: Chirp, Warble ... Soon A Croak And Silence?

In light of earnings reactions in the Semiconductor Equipment sector, it’s time for an update of a theme we have had in play since November, 2017.

The canary is no longer chirping in a healthy manner and the economy’s coal mine has a toxic gas leak. While the recent Lam Research (LRCX) earnings report was pretty good and there were positive aspects to that of Applied Materials (AMAT), these highly cyclical companies that have been at the front end of the entire economic cycle that had its beginnings in 2013 are showing signs of wear.

Business is still good but when you are talking about cyclical leaders, it is growth rate that matters. I have read article after article touting strong current business and future drivers that will change the typical Semiconductor cycle as next-generation Fabs are needed forever more dynamic specialty chips for higher-end devices.

Applied Materials Slides After Softer Q3 Forecasts on Weaker Smartphone Demand

“Smartphone sales have been below expectations, particularly for high-end models, and in response, both semiconductor and display suppliers have made adjustments to their capacity planning,” CEO Gary Dickerson told investors on a conference call. “With inventory rebalance that we’re seeing from smartphones, we’re going to see a sequential dip in the Q3. But from our guidance into Q4, you can see that it recovers nicely into Q4.”

Taking the pulse of the analyst community, from the large houses to the boutiques to the chattering blogosphere, the theme seems to be that a buying opportunity is developing for the likes of AMAT and LRCX, two excellent companies. If you take Applied CEO Gary Dickerson’s view at face value, a decline in these stocks would be exactly that, an opportunity.

But as someone from the real world (as opposed to the Armani wearing analyst community) I can tell you that these companies have no better visibility than you or I. How can they? The global macroeconomy is subject to many inputs and if future outcomes were that easy to read, we’d all be rich beyond our wildest dreams because we’d have already seen around every corner. The global economy, while healthy now is not immune to the business cycle.

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