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The Chips Tell a Chilling Tale

We saw an avalanche of chip designers offering midquarter guidance last week. The larger trend is bad news, as nearly everyone either lowered their outlooks, came in below Wall Street's expectations, or both. Have a look at the midpoints of recently updated guidance ranges:


Original Guidance

New Guidance

Altera (Nasdaq: ALTR  )

$570 million

$543 million

Fairchild Semiconductor (NYSE: FCS  )

$440 million

$405 million

Vishay Intertechnology (NYSE: VSH  )

$695 million

$640 million

Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN  )

$3.55 billion

$3.25 billion

Source: Company press releases.

On top of these gloomy revenue figures, many of these companies also lowered their earnings outlooks. And the same reasons echo all over the industry: TI blames "broadly lower demand across a wide range of products, markets, and customers" while Vishay points to a lack of traditional seasonality strength as the computing and consumer markets stubbornly refuse to end their swoons.

This adds up to a bleak holiday quarter, at least when it comes to consumer electronics and PC systems. Any one of these bona fide economic forecasts could be dismissed as an outlier, but this many voices singing the same tune in unison can't be ignored.

That said, there are some glimmers of hope amid all this darkness. For example, NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA  ) just issued next-year guidance far ahead of analyst estimates because of strong growth in both graphics and mobile computing. "The future for computing is visual and mobile, and we are well positioned to lead in this new era," CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said.

And Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM  ) feels good enough about its future to splurge on a big acquisition. Alongside the announcement of a $3.7 billion deal to acquire network chip designer NetLogic (Nasdaq: NETL  ) , Broadcom also reaffirmed its earlier sales guidance of about $1.95 billion and said that its cash hoard should grow by more than 10% from last quarter.

Now, the mobile markets that drive Broadcom's and NVIDIA's success stories also play a large part for less optimistic peers like TI and Altera. How do you separate the wheat from the chaff in such a mixed-up performance harvest? The best way to do that is to build a comprehensive watchlist to keep a close eye on how the semiconductor industry unfolds. Get started right here:

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Texas Instruments. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of NVIDIA. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing puts in NVIDIA. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him on Twitter or Google , or peruse our Foolish disclosure policy.


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