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