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Micron Technology (Nasdaq: MU ) was never a stock for the faint of heart. A recent glut of manufacturing capacity in the memory-chip industry is meeting a lack of consumer demand for PCs and various computing gadgets. This combination puts pressure on Micron's business and crushes the stock. Over the past six months, share prices have fallen more than 50%. My own Micron position, opened in July when the stock already seemed impossibly cheap, is off by 35%.
But today, the stock jumped as much as 6.6% thanks to an upgrade from Citi analyst Glen Yeung. In a fresh research report, Yeung upped Micron from hold to buy while keeping the price target steady at $7 per share.
The upgrade also sparked trading interest across Micron's sector. SanDisk (Nasdaq: SNDK ) is up 4%, Rambus (Nasdaq: RMBS ) jumped 5%, and Spansion (Nasdaq: CODE ) gained 3.2%, all stomping the generally upbeat Dow Jones (INDEX: ^DJI). Semiconductor stocks as a whole were also beating the Dow, albeit to a lesser degree, as seen in the 2.8% gain of the iShares Semiconductor Index (Nasdaq: SOXX ) ETF. So memory specialists were the stars of the chip show today.
Yeung sees plenty of downside risk but also a very attractive price. Another recession would sink the stock like a battleship anchor, but "house economic views" at Citi point in the other direction; if that's correct, Yeung sees a 79% upside potential, which works out to about $9 a share.
So we're talking about $7 as a risk-adjusted target. The biggest risk out there is a pending antitrust lawsuit, where Rambus is seeking treble damages on about $4 billion of estimated lost revenue, or $13 billion in all. Yeung expects a settlement for no more than $900 million. That would be manageable with Micron's cash-flow potential and cash in the bank. A full $13 billion damages judgment, on the other hand, would do some serious harm.
Micron's rewards outweigh the risks today in Yeung's opinion, and I would agree. In our free report "5 Stocks The Motley Fool Owns -- and You Should, Too," we highlight another high-tech leader that our analyst believes is one of the strongest ways to profit in smartphone growth in China and beyond. Get your copy of the report -- it's free!