It might be hard to imagine, given the Nasdaq Composite's tumble over the past two days (a slide that Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is contributing to today), but there still might be some upside for semiconductor stocks in 2013.
Growth in communications spending is one catalyst that could bolster chip stocks this year, according to a new research note from S&P Capital IQ.
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"In 2013, we believe the industry is poised to grow about 4%, led by a pickup in communications spending, continued growth in consumer electronics, an uptick in automotive, and GDP-like growth in military and industrial end markets," S&P Capital IQ said in the note. "We believe the industry is in good shape to at least grow in line with global GDP, likely reversing much of the trends seen last year, such as some chip customers' lean inventories, low utilization, and cost-cutting."
Although ETFs tracking semiconductor shares have incurred significant damage this week, some of the marquee funds tracking this sub-sector of the technology space have been decent performers on a year-to-date basis. The Market Vectors Semiconductor ETF (NYSE:SMH), which allocates 18 percent of its weight to Intel and over 14 percent to Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE:TSM), is 2.7 percent this year when factoring in Thursday's slide.
The SPDR S&P Semiconductor ETF (NYSE:XSD), which takes more of an equal-weight approach to the sector and is noticeably less dependent on the likes of Intel and Texas Instruments (NASDAQ:TXN) to drive its returns, is higher by 1 about 1.8 percent after accounting for today's drop of almost three percent.
However, the chip ETF S&P Capital IQ highlights in its note is the iShares PHLX SOX Semiconductor Sector Index Fund (NASDAQ:SOXX). SOXX, which has almost $222 million in assets under management and an annual expense ratio of 0.48 percent, earns a Marketweight rating from S&P.
Home 31 stocks, SOXX devotes over 61 percent of its weight to its top-10 holdings, a roster that includes Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT), Texas Instruments, Taiwan Semiconductor, Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM) and Intel.
Overall, the ETF's lineup shows ample exposure to the communications and consumer electronics themes S&P is bullish on.
"We think communications end market spending will bounce back in 2013. Wireless and wireline communications account for approximately 32% of chip sales, and we expect this end market to pick up on pent-up demand," according to the research firm. "Consumer electronics semiconductors, which market researchers see making up about 17% of industry sales, consist of digital TV, videogame consoles and handhelds, set-top boxes, portable media players, digital versatile disk (DVD) players and recorders, and digital cameras. We believe major drivers of consumer spending include devices with improved graphics, and increased connectivity availability and speeds. We see consumer electronics growing 5% in 2013."
SOXX has lost almost two percent in the past five trading days, so a buying opportunity may be close, although valuation fans may want to wait for SOXX to decline further. The ETF has a P/E ratio of 26.31, according to iShares data. By comparison the PowerShares QQQ (NASDAQ:QQQ) has a P/E of less than 15, implying SOXX is richly valued relative to the Nasdaq 100.
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