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NEW YORK — Shares of chip makers advanced Monday, helped by a report indicating their revenue jumped in December and growing analyst confidence that the companies are in a strong position for the year.
Chip stocks generally fell last month, with investors jittery about the broader economic outlook and fourth-quarter earnings reports. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index was down 12 percent in January.
But in midday trading Monday, the index was up 6.96 points, or about 2 percent. Earlier in the day, the said December global chip revenue climbed 29 percent compared with the same month of 2008.
“2009 turned out to be a better year for the global semiconductor industry than expected,” SIA President George Scalise said in a statement. “A strong focus on inventories throughout the supply chain mitigated the impact of the worldwide economic downturn and positioned the industry for growth as the global economy recovers.
“Sales in the final quarter of 2009 were supported by healthy demand in a variety of end markets, including PCs, cell phones and consumer electronics.”
Looking ahead, Scalise says the increasing popularity of PCs and mobile devices will drive sales growth.
In 2010, unit sales of personal computers and cell phones, which account for approximately 60 percent of total semiconductor consumption, will grow in the low to mid teens, providing a solid platform for chip sales. Consumer electronics are expected to grow in the mid-single digits, Scalise said.
“We are also seeing the effects of recovery in the enterprise sector and we believe this trend will continue,” he added. “With improving consumer confidence and signs of economic recovery around the world, the semiconductor industry is well positioned for growth in 2010,” Scalise concluded.
In a note to investors Monday, FBR Capital Markets analyst Craig Berger said he expects several chip companies he covers to beat Wall Street’s fourth-quarter estimates. Additionally, he said inventories among customers such as computer makers are still thin, meaning they will have to ramp up orders to keep pace with any improvement in consumer demand.
Berger added that the recent selling of chip shares could offer a buying opportunity. He reiterated an "Outperform" rating on shares of International Rectifier Corp., Silicon Laboratories Inc., On Semiconductor Corp. and Broadcom Corp.
International Rectifier climbed 97 cents, or 5.4 percent, to $19.01 in midday trading, while Silicon Laboratories was up $1.35, or 3.2 percent, to $43.59. On Semiconductor was up 34 cents, or 4.7 percent, at $7.55 and Broadcom rose 79 cents, or 3 percent, to $27.51.
Meanwhile, Broadpoint AmTech analyst Doug Freedman sent a note to clients Monday arguing chip stocks have room to go higher. He upgraded the sector to "Overweight" from "Neutral."
Freedman said the sector’s recovery should be "sustainable and gradual, as the industry is targeting sustained profitability, not unreasonable growth forecasts."