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We've seen a lot of brilliant earnings reports in the semiconductor industry lately, oftentimes fueled by the burgeoning smartphone market. It's easy to find a chip stock with promising prospects, backed by solid financial numbers.
But you can't very well buy every good-looking semiconductor stock on the market. So how should an intrepid chip-stock investor such as yourself go about separating the chaff from the wheat to arrive at the one semiconductor investment that's a perfect fit for your portfolio?
I have poured plenty of sugar on semiconductor stocks in the past couple of weeks, and it might look like I want you to buy all of them. But the reality is that not every great stock has a place in every portfolio, and I'm happy to help you sort out the differences among them.
A quartet of dividend machines
First of all, a certain type of investor prefers fat dividend payouts over the risky potential of the roller-coaster stock charts of a growth stock. If that's you, then your income-generating portfolio would be best served by one of the giants of the chip market. PC and server processor colossus Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) sports a 2.8% dividend yield today, and explicitly prefers to increase that payout over going on some ill-advised shopping spree.
Intel's future is tightly tied to the health of the traditional PC market, which by all accounts looks good today. But if you believe the future of computing is more portable, you could get your dividend fix from mobile chip experts Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN ) or Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) . Their yields hover around the 2% mark at current prices. Qualcomm has seen its share prices swooning lately, losing 10% over the past 12 months even as the Nasdaq index gained 40%, making it perhaps the richest value play among the Big Three -- Intel, Qualcomm, and TI.
And then we have chip manufacturing contractor Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (NYSE: TSM ) , which is a dividend play with an international twist. TSMC, as the company is known, gives you a generous 3.4% yield while also qualifying as an international investment. If you are looking for exposure to Asian markets in addition to your semiconductor plans, TSMC might be it. I'm not the only Fool to believe in TSMC, as Tim Beyers also owns it with market-beating results. This investment is a dual threat with income and international roles to play -- all under the semiconductor umbrella.
A twosome of thriving tinies
OK, so maybe you prefer to catch the next big thing before it grows too large. There are plenty of investment options for that kind of growth-hungry stock picker as well.
At the moment, I can't think of any technology trend with a more sustainable hypergrowth trajectory than smartphones. We're still in the very early days of carrying fully functional computers in our pockets that just happen to connect to wireless voice lines as well. As this market matures over the next several years, you will find some outrageous returns among the little guys that ship specialized chips for every brand of smartphone. You know, of course, that some of the best stocks you can buy represent companies that are small, obscure, and largely ignored by the market.
Cypress mostly makes controller chips for touchscreens, which is a very narrow niche with few direct competitors. It's easy to overlook the growth potential of this market. These chips account for around 2% of the cost to manufacture a touchscreen gadget like the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad, and I bet that many investors weren't even aware that the screen needed a separate chip to read those finger-tracks. That is exactly why I believe that the market underestimates Cypress today.
Touchscreens will find their way into new applications and grow the addressable market, with or without that booming smartphone trend. If there is a safe bet in an inherently unpredictable industry, Cypress would be it for me.
Cirrus follows a similar track, only its recent success is built on high-end audio decoder chips. Apple swears by those Cirrus sound chips for products where sound quality is paramount -- it's what you find in your iPod music player, iPhone, and yes, the iPad, too. Since Cirrus likes to grow its business gradually by roping in new customers who were impressed by past success stories, well, you can see where this company is going.
Cirrus and Cypress don't do dividends, and they're small-cap stocks that wouldn't appeal to a stability-craving income investor anyway. But if it's growth you want, I think you'll find it here in spades.
Did I miss your favorite semiconductor investment? Enlighten me and everybody else by sharing your insights in the comments section below.