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The Nasdaq's Big Friday Winner Wants to Be China's Top EV Stock

By Dan Caplinger - Updated Feb 19, 2021 at 3:29PM

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No, it's not NIO -- or Tesla.

The stock market continued to be choppy on Friday, and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 3.34%) struggled to hold onto its ground. After being up sharply in the morning, the Nasdaq dropped into negative territory briefly in the afternoon before rebounding. The index was higher by about 0.2% as of 2 p.m. EST.

Yet one top Nasdaq-100 stock managed to pick up more than 7% on Friday as it tied its fortunes more directly to the red-hot electric-vehicle (EV) industry. Most wouldn't think of it as being an EV play, but the Chinese tech giant is following in the footsteps of big-name technology stocks in the U.S. in trying to use its experience in data analytics and artificial intelligence to help drive automotive innovation.

Car driving on a digitally animated road.

Image source: Getty Images.

That stock is Baidu (BIDU 3.56%), and it made a big announcement to further its EV plans. Meanwhile, Applied Materials (AMAT 4.37%) was also a top performer on Friday.

Driving forward

Baidu's stock gained after the company reported its fourth-quarter financial results. But the news that got the attention had to do with the Chinese search-giant's efforts to bolster its EV program.

Baidu's numbers were solid. Revenue was higher by 5%, compared to the year-earlier period, and although adjusted net income fell by 25% year over year, that was nevertheless better than most investors had anticipated. Moreover, Baidu expects that revenue growth will accelerate to 15% by the first quarter of this year.

Getting more attention, though, was the fact that Baidu will apparently look to bring on a well-known entrepreneur in the transportation space to head up its electric-vehicle joint venture. Xia Yiping has experience with Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler, and he most recently co-founded the bike-sharing company Mobike.

It could be three years before Baidu actually launches a vehicle. But the news of progress on the EV front was enough to have Baidu challenging its all-time highs from earlier this year, and many investors have high hopes for the joint venture tapping into the lucrative Chinese consumer market and challenging established players like NIO and Tesla there.

Applied Materials looks chippy

Elsewhere, shares of Applied Materials also gained ground, climbing 6%. A strong earnings report was instrumental in lifting the semiconductor materials company.

Applied Materials reported record revenue for the quarter, rising 24% from year-ago levels. Adjusted earnings grew at an even more impressive pace of 42% year over year. Flash memory played an extremely important role in fostering Applied Materials' growth, making up a larger percentage of the company's sales at the expense of foundry-related revenue.

The company reported heavy demand from customers. Consumption of silicon for semiconductor chips has never been higher, and CEO Gary Dickerson said he believes that those favorable trends should continue. As major corporations accelerate their digital-transformation efforts, they've increasingly relied on getting the computing power necessary to get the job done. That's been a motivating factor for Applied Materials' business.

The guidance from Applied Materials supports Dickerson's claim. The company anticipates sales of $5.39 billion in the fiscal second quarter, with adjusted earnings of $1.44 to $1.56 per share. With plenty of tailwinds in the industry, Applied Materials has plenty of potential to keep winning throughout the coming year.

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Stocks Mentioned

Baidu, Inc. Stock Quote
Baidu, Inc.
$151.34 (3.56%) $5.21
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return) Stock Quote
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return)
$11,607.62 (3.34%) $375.43
Ford Motor Company Stock Quote
Ford Motor Company
$12.01 (3.89%) $0.45
Tesla, Inc. Stock Quote
Tesla, Inc.
$737.12 (4.53%) $31.91
Applied Materials, Inc. Stock Quote
Applied Materials, Inc.
$97.36 (4.37%) $4.08
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. Stock Quote
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.
Nio Inc. Stock Quote
Nio Inc.
$24.08 (4.47%) $1.03

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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