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Fear and Loathing in the Chip Sector

Several semiconductor companies have seen downgrades the past few days, including Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , Atheros, ON Semiconductor (Nasdaq: ONNN  ) , National Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, and Taiwan Semiconductor. Analysts have also reduced earnings estimates on AMD (NYSE: AMD  ) and Microchip Technology.

What's going on? Analysts cite a stream of bad news about PC and other electronics sales, along with some inventory issues and still-weak IT spending.

With all that worry out there in the sector, Fool analyst Rex Moore says it's time to look for some beaten-down bargains. He developed a screen that looks for companies with low price-to-earnings multiples, but also a relatively low amount of risk and the potential for reasonable growth. That helps avoid "value traps." The screen only picks up companies with total debt less than 60% of capital, and at least 5% expected annualized growth over the next five years.

Using that criteria, the best semiconductor values out there today are Micron Technology (NYSE: MU  ) with a forward P/E of 4, Lam Research (Nasdaq: LRCX  ) (7), Varian Semiconductor (Nasdaq: VSEA  ) (8), Diodes (Nasdaq: DIOD  ) (8.5), and Intel (9). Some readers may be wondering if growth estimates can be trusted for these companies, and that's something to consider -- and why you need to do your homework. But that's what these screens are for ... bringing up promising ideas to research. If you don't like Micron at 4 times earnings, consider the much more stable Intel at 9.

Watch the video here:

Fool analyst Rex Moore has a chip on his shoulder but owns no companies mentioned. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Atheros Communications is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. The Fool owns shares of Atheros Communications and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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