"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.