2 Chip Stocks Gashed By Downgrades, Sector Headwinds

The majority of analysts are still bullish on MU and AMAT, though

Managing Editor
Oct 23, 2018 at 9:54 AM
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Amid this morning's steep broad market sell-off, several analysts weighed in on chip stocks, doling out mostly downgrades and price-target cuts. Many believe the recent semiconductor sector underperformance is due to a possible "cyclical correction" and trade tensions with China. To get more specific, Susquehanna slapped both Applied Materials, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT) and Micron Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:MU) with downgrades and steep price-target cuts.

AMAT Keeps Digging A Bigger Hole in 2018

Applied Materials stock was downgraded to "neutral" from "positive," and saw its price target slashed to $38 from $60. AMAT is down 3.2% to trade at $32.42 at last check, and earlier hit new annual low of $32.11. The security has carved out a channel of lower lows since a mid-August bear gap, under pressure from its 30-day moving average. Overall, it is now staring at a 37% deficit in 2018. 

While Applied Materials stock is no stranger to bear notes lately, the majority of analysts remain bullish. Of the 18 brokerages covering AMAT, 12 rate it a "strong buy," with zero "sells" on the books. And despite the steep price-target cut today, the stock's average 12-month price target of $56.50 is a 69% premium to last night's closing perch of $33.53.

Puts Popular As MU Spiral Continues

Micron stock received the same downgrade as its sector peer, and saw its price target cut to $45 from $75. MU is now down 5.1% to trade at $37.74, dangerously close to its Feb. 9 annual low of $37.52. The equity has endured a similar slide as AMAT, gapping lower in mid-September following a weak quarterly forecast.

Yet analysts still lean bullishly toward the security. Of the 22 brokerages covering Micron, 15 rate it a "buy" or better. What's more, the consensus 12-month price target of $66.58 is a 67% premium to Monday's closing perch. 

Options data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) shows MU puts have been increasing in popularity recently. This is shown in its 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.52, which ranks in the 100th percentile of its annual range. While this ratio indicates calls still have outnumbered puts on an absolute basis, the high percentile suggests the appetite for bearish bets has been much healthier than usual.


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