The Goldman warning comes amid a strong rally in chipmaker stocks, which bounced off a steep December decline and have since posted double-digit gains to start the new year. Angst mounted in the semiconductors space in late 2018 amid the U.S.-China trade war and general concerns around China's economic growth. Demand also slowed between softer iPhone sales and a deceleration in cryptocurrency mining ventures.
And while those fears abated in the final days of 2018 and into the new year, Goldman and others have cautioned that the pain may not be over yet.
"Our near-term caution about being too early on memory is not just about avoiding catching a falling knife, but also the fact that upturns typically last for a year or longer," Delaney added. "It's only the second quarter of the DRAM downturn, and while NAND has been weak for several quarters there are still high levels of NAND inventory and demand in key markets like smartphones is quite weak."
Also weighing on the chipmaker space Friday was Qorvo's quarterly earnings report. While the Greensboro, North Carolina-based semiconductor company topped analyst profit expectations in the third quarter, it offered fourth-quarter earnings guidance of $1.05, well below consensus estimates of $1.33. The company reported earnings Thursday after the market close.
"Qorvo's March quarterly guidance reflects weakness in the broader smartphone market, partially offset by content gains with the leading Korea-based smartphone manufacturer and double-digit, year-over-year growth in IDP," Chief Financial Officer Mark Murphy said of the projection. Qorvo's stock was last seen down more than 6 percent.
Mizuho also penned a more bearish note on semiconductor stocks Friday. Analyst Vijay Rakesh downgraded Dutch chip manufacturer NXP Semiconductors, telling clients that while management's cost control initiative is appreciated, the company's 2019 global GDP outlook looks a little optimistic. Further, the stock's valuation seems steep after a 40 percent rally since December, the analyst wrote.
"While CEO Rick Clemmer and CFO Peter Kelly have executed well with cost controls and steering the company, we are moving to the sidelines as we see continued challenges in China and Europe with auto and industrial headwinds limiting meaningful upside," he wrote.
NXP fell 2.8 percent Friday.