Applied Materials (AMAT -3.44%) stock has been in fine form on the market in 2021. Shares of the semiconductor manufacturing equipment supplier have shot up more than 80% so far this year, and they are likely to head higher once the company releases its fiscal 2021 fourth-quarter earnings on Nov. 18.
Let's look at the reasons why Applied Materials' hot stock market rally can get a shot in the arm after its earnings.
Applied Materials is on track to deliver another solid earnings report
Applied Materials anticipates $1.94 per share in earnings on revenue of $6.32 billion for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021. Wall Street, however, has higher expectations. Analysts expect Applied Materials to earn $1.95 per share on revenue of $6.34 billion. The company had earned $1.25 per share on $4.69 billion in revenue in the prior-year period, so its top and bottom lines are expected to record terrific growth.
However, it won't be surprising to see the company exceed consensus estimates thanks to the rapidly growing demand for semiconductor equipment. Applied Materials has beaten Wall Street's targets by comfortable margins over the last four quarters, and it looks all set to repeat that performance. That's because Applied Materials had an order backlog worth nearly $10 billion at the end of the third quarter.
The company had a record backlog in the semiconductor systems business that's expected to produce nearly 73% of its revenue this quarter. The Applied Global Services segment, which is expected to account for 20% of the company's revenue in Q4, also witnessed record backlog levels as the demand for parts, software, and other recurring services remained robust.
Management had pointed out on the August earnings conference call that semiconductor equipment spending is expected to remain higher in the second half of 2021. What's more, Applied Materials believes that the semiconductor spending momentum will spill over into 2022 and help the company report growth across all its business segments.
So Applied Materials can easily exceed expectations if it can fulfill more orders. More importantly, its guidance for the current quarter and the new fiscal year is likely to be a solid one, as it expects spending on semiconductor wafer fabrication equipment to increase in 2022. Semiconductor industry association SEMI estimates that global investments in semiconductor fabs could hit a record $100 billion in 2022, up from this year's estimated spending of $90 billion.
As a result, the healthy demand environment that has driven Applied Materials' growth in 2021 looks all set to continue.
The stock is still a great buy
What's impressive is that Applied Materials stock remains affordable even after logging impressive gains on the market this year. Its price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 27 means that investors who have missed the gravy train so far can still buy this high-growth company at an affordable valuation. Meanwhile, Applied Materials' forward earnings multiple of 20 points toward improved earnings.
It is worth noting that these multiples are lower than the broader index. For instance, the tech-laden Nasdaq 100 index has a P/E ratio of 35 and a forward earnings multiple of nearly 30. So Applied Materials looks like a bargain going into its Q4 earnings, especially considering that it is expected to deliver nearly 27% annual earnings growth for the next five years.
All of this indicates that investors looking to buy a growth stock at a reasonable valuation should take a closer look at Applied Materials and consider acting quickly, as a strong earnings report can send its shares soaring and make the stock expensive.