Judging by the company's second-quarter conference call yesterday, semiconductor equipment maker Novellus (NASDAQ:NVLS) is doing better than even the optimistic analysts expected. And thus far at least, with the stock up some 6% in morning trading, it seems like investors are getting to enjoy the rewards. After all, there's nothing quite so frustrating as seeing your companies post good news in an ugly market and get no pop for it.

Novellus has certainly had some challenges of late. Though a leader in niches like electrofill and a big player in deposition, the company had been hurting from tighter margins, higher warranty costs, and share erosion to big players like Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT).

For this quarter at least, though, things are looking up. The company boosted its sales, profit, and bookings guidance and did so by meaningful amounts. And assuming it reaches the midpoints of these new numbers, year-over-year revenue growth will be in the low 20% range and earnings-per-share growth will be close to 60%.

Of course, the big old elephant in the room is just what's going to happen in the semiconductor industry. After all, demand for chips from the likes of Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), AMD (NYSE:AMD), and Silicon Labs (NASDAQ:SLAB) ultimately translates into cash flow for new equipment spending (whether or not it goes through foundries like TaiwanSemiconductor (NYSE:TSM) along the way). And though some folks are worried about rising customer inventories, the Semiconductor Industry Association just came out with a fairly optimistic assessment of chip demand growth for this year and the next.

Certainly, Novellus's story of improving efficiencies and strong demand from memory chip makers is good news. But then, it should also be good news to some extent for others, like Applied Materials, ASML (NASDAQ:ASML), Semitool (NASDAQ:SMTL), and so on -- depending upon how much of the improvement is company-specific and how much is coming from overall industry conditions.

Novellus isn't my favorite chip equipment company, but that's just my opinion. Do your own due diligence and decide for yourself. Just remember, though, that this is a devilishly tricky industry for investors with long-term holding preferences -- it's cyclical, highly technical, and extremely competitive.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson but has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).