Investors made a killing in semiconductors last year led by gains from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and NVidia (NVDA). Each stock closed 2016 up over 200% on a series of strong quarterly reports and favorable product launches. But with the good comes the bad. Short interest hit new highs in December, making it unlikely that either company puts on a repeat performance.
Investors searching for this year’s star performer may find one in another semiconductor. Applied Materials (AMAT) reached new highs in 2016 and looks to add to its gains with a strong pipeline of new products ready to hit the market.
Unlike AMD or NVidia, short interest for Applied Materials fell in December even though share prices jumped 75% for the year. And it doesn’t appear that the stock has run its course. AMAT kicked off 2017 with an upgrade and price target hike to $40 from Needham & Company. Amongst 22 analysts, the stock touts an average rating of buy and a price target north of $35, reflecting nearly 10% upside from its current price.
Given its strong fundamental support, it won’t be long before AMAT reaches $35 per share. In each quarter of fiscal 2016, revenue and earnings recorded all-time highs on a 23% increase in new order growth. On a non-GAAP, gross margin increased by 300 basis points to 43.2%, operating income jumped 24% to $2.35 billion, and diluted EPS climbed nearly 50%. Applied Materials consistently trumps estimates from Wall Street and the more bullish consensus data of Estimize and will continue to do so, given its propensity to meet strategic and financial goals.
Looking on to 2017, prospects look encouraging as traditional end markets in computing, mobility and consumer electronics grow. The industries that Applied Materials services are growing at a rapid pace, creating an abundance of exciting new opportunity moving forward.
From a technical standpoint, shares are in a precarious position. Trading volume lately has been relatively stagnant when compared to average rates. Low volume often indicates a technical correction back after a prolonged period of bullish activity. Meanwhile, a bearish crossover in the MACD at the end of December led to a 4% decline to start the new year.
But the recent pullback might be short-lived. Apart from the downturn, the stock broke the lower Bollinger Band and is now oversold based on this widely used technical indicator. (See also: Using Technical Indicators To Develop Trading Strategies.)
Applied Materials' robust fundamental prospects created from a growing product pipeline makes it clear that the recent pullback should have very little impact on the stock’s long-term potential.