This past earnings season was largely mixed for companies in the semiconductor industry. Major players like Intel, NVidia, and Ambarella crushed expectations while lesser known names like AMD found it difficult to stimulate growth. Overall worldwide semiconductor sales fell 0.2 percent on a year-over-year basis largely due to the slowdown in China and currency headwinds. Companies with high exposure to the PC market were also hit hard by lower demand and weak holiday sales.
Meanwhile, Apple reported its slowest growth in iPhone sales last quarter and expects sales to decline until the release of the iPhone 7, thereby forcing suppliers to scale back production. The biggest names impacted by this include Cirrus Logic and Qorvo, which have already posted weaker guidance on first-quarter earnings.
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On the bright side, companies associated with the gaming industry enjoyed robust growth. In particular, NVidia reported record high revenue of $1.4 billion, beating the Estimize consensus by $80 million. Intel is also developing a gaming chip to capitalize on the rapid growth in GPUs.
Kicking things off for semiconductors, Micron Technology will report fiscal second quarter earnings after the market closes Thursday. Micron has been one of the losers in the semiconductor space lately, missing earnings expectations in each of the past four quarters. Consequently, shares have plummeted over 60 percent in the past 12 months.
The crowdsourced consensus is calling for earnings per share of minus 7 cents on $3.2 billion in revenue, reflecting a 103 percent decline in earnings on a year-over-year basis. Micron is seeing rampant revisions activity lately, with EPS falling 106 percent in the past three months.
The continual decline of the PC market has unsurprisingly caused Micron's core DRAM business to collapse. DRAM currently constitutes 70 percent of its revenue, of which half comes from PC sales. During the first fiscal quarter, DRAM retail prices dropped 13 percent while the cost per bit fell 10 percent. This trend is likely to continue during the second quarter.
On the other hand, Micron's NAND business has been a bright spot. NAND bit shipments are expected to increase 10 to 15 percent quarter over quarter going forward, thanks to the mainstream adoption of solid state drives. Still, Micron must remain nimble in its product offerings to compete with tech giants like Samsung, SanDisk and Toshiba.
Despite the ups and down, analysts believe the semiconductor industry is poised to rebound this year. Many of these names are aggressively pursuing high-growth sectors like 3-D printing or virtual reality. Later this year we will also see the new iPhone 7 which should spur a recovery for many of Apple's suppliers. Micron's earnings call on Thursday may give investors an early indication of the recovery horizon in the semiconductor industry.
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