Small-cap semiconductor equipment company Electroglas (NASDAQ:EGLS) counts the major-league likes of STMicroelectronics (NYSE:STM) and National Semiconductor (NYSE:NSM) as customers for its chip-testing products. But on Thursday, the San Jose, Calif.-based company couldn't get any respect. After announcing weak second-quarter results, investors sent the company's shares tumbling by nearly 8%.

The sell-off here was hardly a surprise. The company posted a net loss of $5.3 million on the quarter -- a sharper decline than it suffered this time last year -- and a per-share loss of $0.24. All told, with two quarters of the company's fiscal year on the books, Electroglas has handed investors a disappointing year, with net sales off by almost 40% relative to the first two quarters of fiscal 2005.

For current and prospective shareholders, the question, of course, is whether Electroglas' losing streak will continue. For his part, CEO Keith Barnes observed in the company's announcement that "[p]ositive momentum is building for our products, and there are signs of improvement in the next few quarters."

Magic 8-Ball translation: "Reply hazy. Ask again later."

For my money, there are clearly better ways to play the semiconductor industry than through a volatile little fish like Electroglas, whose $3 stock has lagged far behind both its industry peer group and the S&P for the trailing 10 years through November 2005. Indeed, over that time frame, the company has posted an annualized loss in excess of 20%, while the S&P has climbed by an annualized 9.3%. (For small-cap comparison's sake, the Russell 2000 has cranked out a 9.6% gain.)

So what's a chip-centric investor to do? Check out the big boys, I say. Among chip-equipment concerns, both KLA-Tencor (NASDAQ:KLAC) and Applied Materials currently trade at trailing-12-month price-to-earnings ratios below the industry average, and a trio of the industry's well-heeled wafer makers looks intriguing, too.

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), for instance, sports a trailing P/E that falls below that of the broader market and its industry peer group, and investors with a flair for the international should spend a little due-diligence quality time with Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE:TSM). Mr. Market is currently offering that chip-making titan at a nice P/E discount, too.

Last but not least: Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN). True, TI isn't cheap, but it still looks attractive. And what's more, the free cash flow figure for TI's last fiscal year was nearly $1.85 billion. Electroglas' comparable number was less than zero -- nearly $25 million less, in fact.

Mull that math, and you make the call.

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Shannon Zimmerman is the lead analyst for the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and doesn't own any of the company's mentioned. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.