Tech stocks: No shine for chipmakers till later in 2012

Tech stocks outlook for next two months is better for semiconductor equipment makers, analyst says. Upgrades to Windows 8 will fuel demand for tech stocks like Intel in the second half of the year.   

Paul Sakuma/AP/File
The Intel sign is shown at Intel headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., in December. Expect a slow start for semiconductor stocks while inventories are drawn down says a Barclays Capital analyst. But tech stocks like Intel should fare better later in 2012

When it comes to semiconductor stocks, patience will pay off, says C.J. Muse, managing director of Barclays Capital.

 "Inventories will be depleted in the first quarter," he said, adding that Barclays expects this slow start to precede growth for the year from flat to 4 percent across the sector.

 For now, stick with equipment stocks, says Muse, where a different business cycle means inventories aren't an issue, and an overall market lift should carry equipment. 

 Muse likes equipment makers Lam Research and Teradyne.

 "For the next two-plus months we're looking for earnings surprises from equipment and earnings cuts for the semiconductor names."

 But as soon as inventories start to roll in, Muse is betting on semiconductors: QualcommBroadcomMicron Tech, and Altera.

Semiconductor giant Intel is not on this list, despite a pop in the stock late December. "We see the Windows 8 push heading into [the third quarter], impacting PC demand particularly for microprocessors" like Intel, says Muse.

 The third-quarter release of the latest Windows operating system could drive higher PC sales once consumers upgrade their hardware to be more compatible with the new software. This stands to benefit the chipmakers, like Intel, whose component microchips are in the PCs.

 For this reason, Barclays revised its expectations for Intel, saying it expects earnings to be lower in the first half of 2012 than in the second half. 

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