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A Bearish Sign from the Semiconductors?

Profit-taking in semiconductor stocks renews concerns over the sector's recent underperformance within tech

by 2/14/2012 8:00:54 AM
Stocks quoted in this article:

With 15% of the Technology Select Sector SPDRS ETF (XLK) consisting of Apple (AAPL), it can be difficult to accurately assess the significance of the relative overperformance of the technology sector in general -- and within the typically leading semiconductor group -- in recent days.

For most of the past several months, XLK and a key semiconductor exchange-traded fund (ETF) like the Market Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH) were trading very much in tandem. But as semiconductors have been to pull back of late, the growing realization that AAPL might be pulling the technology sector along with it has many traders paying more attention to the potential for a near-term bearish message from the selling in semiconductors.

What is there to be seen in the semiconductor market? Here, stocks like Marvell Technology Group (MRVL) have closed lower for two days in a row -- four out of the past six -- and are nearing technically oversold territory above its 200-day moving average. Other semiconductor stocks like KLA-Tencor Corp (KLAC) are already oversold. In fact, shares of KLAC have closed in oversold territory for the past two days in a row, as the stock begins to sell-off in earnest after rallying to new 52-week highs in late January.

Even more oversold are shares of Novellus Systems (NVLS). Down two days in a row and barely breaking even on Monday, NVLS has finished in- or near-oversold territory for the past two sessions.

Market prognosticators will determine whether or not the fact that SMH has finished near oversold territory for the past two days while XLK closed in overbought territory for eight out of the past nine means that the broader technology sector is headed for lower prices. But at the same time, there already may be a few markets in technology where prices have been coming down and potentially creating significant, short-term bargains for more active investors.

Coming Spring 2012: the second edition of How Markets Really Work: A Quantitative Guide to Stock Market Behavior by Larry Connors and Cesar Alvarez. Click here to learn more.

David Penn is Editor in Chief of TradingMarkets.com

Disclaimer: The views represented in this column are those of the individual authors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Schaeffer's Investment Research.

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