Shares of the computer memory maker have gained 44% over the past three months and even more if you cherry-picked the best days to buy, including an 8% jump today. Thanks to strong demand for NAND flash memory of the kind you'd find inside a modern smartphone or tablet, average selling prices stayed remarkably solid and led to $2.3 billion of revenue. That's significantly higher than the $2.1 billion target Wall Street had been looking for.
Because the memory-chip business leans so heavily on economies of scale, you shouldn't be surprised to see strong sales leading to much better GAAP earnings as well, and Micron delivered with $0.07 per share versus the Street's $0.04 estimate.
The Boise, Idaho, business magnate does run some manufacturing operations in disaster-stricken Japan, but said those facilities were not damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. The worst of it is living with the same rolling blackouts and transportation snarls that everybody is dealing with, and Micron's management has yet to determine how its Japanese materials supply will work out.
While Micron may dodge the bulk of this bullet, Japan-based rival Toshiba keeps its main memory factory much closer to the disaster area than Micron does. Assuming that worldwide gadget demand isn't going away anytime soon, we'll have a classic supply shortage situation on our hands, which will keep prices high and make up for whatever sales Micron might lose due to materials shortages of its own.
Micron's upbeat report also affected other stocks in the memory sector: Integrated Silicon Solution (Nasdaq: ISSI ) , which make memory-module controller chips, rose more than 5% as module builder SMART Modular Technologies (Nasdaq: SMOD ) followed tight on Integrated's heels. More direct Micron rival and longtime Toshiba partner SanDisk (Nasdaq: SNDK ) rose a more modest 3.5%, still comfortably ahead of the general market today. Strong pricing trends are good for the entire supply chain, volume threats notwithstanding.
Will Micron be able to extend recent gains into long-term returns? I have a thumbs-up CAPS call saying that it will, and an overall four-star CAPS rating out of five tells us that this optimistic outlook is widely shared. Make your own call on Micron right now, and don't forget to add this memory-industry bellwether stock to your Foolish watchlist.