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In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009 (ended in early September) , Micron saw the average selling price for computer-standard DRAM memory chips rise 8% over the previous quarter. That was the first sequential price gain in, gosh ... years. The fourth quarter saw DRAM prices skyrocket by 21%, and it finally looks like the industrywide oversupply situation is over.
This is great news for memory makers like Micron, Samsung, and Toshiba, but not quite as brilliant for gadget designers like Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) and computer-system builders such as Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) . Higher component costs will cut into profit margins. Passing the costs on to the end user can make your products look expensive and unattractive. Of course, you expect to pay a premium for superb design, so Apple can certainly hide some of the memory cost. I'm curious how Dell and HP will juggle the issue, though.
All in all, Micron reported a net profit of $0.23 per share in the fourth quarter, on $1.7 billion of revenue. That's an enormous improvement from its $0.93 loss per share on sales of $1.4 billion a year ago. Of course, Micron's share price has quadrupled since hitting rock bottom in late 2008, so the good news is hardly a shock today. It's just a bit better than you might have expected.
Those shares are about to make another kind of move, too. After 19 years on the New York Stock Exchange, Micron is moving the MU ticker over to Nasdaq OMX Group's (Nasdaq: NDAQ ) exchange at the end of December. Citing the presence of so many technology companies on the Nasdaq exchange, CEO Steve Appleton sees Micron's new home on Wall Street as "the best fit for the company and our shareholders."
The company joins Seagate Technology (Nasdaq: STX ) , and a handful of others as a major Nasdaq ticker that isn't a four-letter word. The two companies share more in common than a tickering anomaly, however. Seagate has also experienced a stunning share price climb from the depths of the Great Recession. As IT spending rebounds and consumer electronics show strong year-over-year improvements, makers of "commodity" computer components are finding themselves handsomely rewarded.
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Confused about the vagaries of stock exchanges? Want more info on why Micron might be moving? There's a story for that.