The Nasdaq-100 index, which hosts some of the largest technology companies in the world, lost 34% of its value so far in 2022, placing it firmly in bear market territory. Some individual tech stocks suffered even steeper declines, but there are also some unexpected outperformers and semiconductor-service company Axcelis Technologies (ACLS -3.25%) is one of them.

Axcelis stock is down just 15% year to date and it's not only beating the Nasdaq-100, but it's also doing far better than popular semiconductor giants like Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices, which are trading down 53% and 58%, respectively, in 2022. It's because Axcelis continues to grow rapidly even in the face of a slowing economy, and its order backlog just hit yet another record high. 

Here's why it's an ideal bear-market buy.

Axcelis Technologies is essential to chipmakers

Semiconductors are the advanced computer chips that power our most prized electronics. They play a critical role in smartphone devices, electric vehicles, and even the data centers that host our online experiences. Axcelis doesn't produce any chips itself, but rather it provides ion implantation equipment to some of the world's largest semiconductor manufacturers, so the company is key to the industry's expansion. 

Axcelis revealed multiple shipments of its equipment this year to chipmakers across Asia and Europe. The range of applications is diverse, but the company notes that some of those buyers are manufacturers of memory chips. Earlier this year, Micron Technology, which is a leader in that area, likened electric vehicles with autonomous driving capabilities to data centers on wheels because they require 140 gigabytes of memory (DRAM) and up to 1 terabyte of storage capacity (NAND). 

The electric vehicle industry could be a booming opportunity for Axcelis for that reason, and it could be one explanation for why the company continued to grow rapidly this year even though many of the largest semiconductor players slowed. 

In fact, as of the third quarter, Axcelis had an order backlog worth $1.1 billion, up from $869 million in Q2, and it's yet another record high. 

Axcelis' financial results are soaring

Axcelis generated $229 million in revenue during Q3, which was a 29% increase compared to the same period last year. It also marked two consecutive quarters of sequential growth, which is impressive given the broader economic slowdown this year.

The company's earnings per share also jumped by a whopping 49% to $1.21. But looking at the entire nine months of 2022 so far tells an even more positive story. Axcelis' earnings of $3.75 over that stretch represent a seismic 105% increase compared to the same period of 2021. 

The third quarter's strong results prompted Axcelis to revise its 2022 full-year revenue guidance higher. It now anticipates $885 million in sales, whereas it opened this year expecting about $850 million. 

Axcelis is also in the process of buying back $100 million worth of its own shares. Share repurchases are designed to shrink the company's float, which organically increases its stock price, effectively making investors' holdings more valuable. It follows $75 million worth of previous buybacks completed since 2019. 

Why Axcelis Technologies stock is a buy right now

Despite the company's blockbuster operating performance this year, Axcelis stock is still a great value. Its trailing-12-month earnings per share of $4.80 place the stock at a price-to-earnings ratio of just 13.5 as of this writing. 

That's a 41% discount to the P/E ratio of the Nasdaq-100 index, which currently sits at 23. It implies Axcelis stock would have to soar by 70% just to trade in line with the broader technology sector. 

But Axcelis stock also trades at a 14% discount to its peers in the semiconductor industry, based on the 15.8 P/E ratio of the iShares Semiconductor ETF. Should that be the case? Given the largest players in the sector experienced a sharp deceleration in their financial results -- including Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices -- there's a strong argument that Axcelis stock should actually be trading at a premium instead. 

If that happens, there will be plenty of upside on the table for investors who buy in now.