Are Semiconductor Stocks Overheating?

"Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high!
Or we shall be belated:
For slow and slow that ship will go,
When the Mariner's trance is abated."
-- From "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1798

A rising tide may lift all boats -- but some ships can't quite handle the surging waves.

That's what happened to Fairchild Semiconductor International (NYSE: FCS  ) today. Fellow chip producer (silicon, not potato) Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) reported stellar earnings Tuesday night, sending every chip stock under the sun into a ballistic trajectory. Great tidings from the sector-defining business must be good news for everybody, right? Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) gained 3.6% on Intel's report, ON Semiconductor (Nasdaq: ONNN  ) added 4.5%, and Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN  ) tacked on 4% in one day. Fairchild's stock price skyrocketed by 8.3% on Wednesday, on the eve of its own earnings report.

So when Fairchild's numbers turned out to beat analyst estimates by a slim margin, it wasn't enough to support the high expectations Intel had worked up for its sector buddy. First-quarter sales came in at $378 million, feeding into $0.25 of pro forma earnings per share -- drastic improvements over the first quarter of 2009 and impressive lifts from last quarter as well. But the stock sits 2.5% below last night's closing price, taking some wind out of Fairchild's billowing sails.

Fairchild is still on a hot streak, even after a small tweak here at the end. The stock has bounced over 330% above last year's lows and is sniffing on price levels not seen since the summer of 2008. Strong sales across all end markets, the highest gross margins since 2000, and a positive net cash balance all point to strong business that indeed does follow Intel's inspiring lead.

I see no reason why Fairchild wouldn't keep sailing along on rising demand for power-control chips, which is what the company does best -- so I'm heading over to CAPS to give the stock a thumbs-up rating for the next year or so. Feel free to join me there and share your insights about Fairchild -- and 5,000 other stocks.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in AMD, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He is an all-star CAPS player and a fervent fan of National Poetry Month. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. The Fool has created a covered strangle position on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended a buy calls position on Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.


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  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2010, at 3:46 PM, minibeee wrote:

    Take a better look. Semis have actually been held down by the eco-climate so far this year. they are merely catching up. Btw, you were wrong again about AMD. $15-20 this year is more than possible. I don't know how you can be continually pessimistic about a stock you own.

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