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Morgan Stanley downgrades high flying chip sector to sell: ‘Indicators are flashing red’

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A technician inspects a 300mm silicon wafer at the Applied Materials Maydan Technology Center in Santa Clara, California.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A technician inspects a 300mm silicon wafer at the Applied Materials Maydan Technology Center in Santa Clara, California.

Semiconductor stocks have soundly outperformed the market for years, but Morgan Stanley is now warning the red-hot sector has topped out.

The firm lowered its rating to cautious from in line for the semiconductor industry, citing rising chip inventory levels. The cautious ranking is Morgan Stanley’s lowest rating and means its analyst believes the sector will underperform the market over the next 12 to 18 months.

“The semiconductor cycle is showing signs of overheating. … Cyclical indicators are flashing red and any contraction in lead times and/or demand slowdown could lead to a significant inventory correction,” analyst Joseph Moore said in a note to clients Thursday. “Furthermore, elevated inventory and stretched lead times leave no margin for error as any lead time adjustment or demand slowdown could drive a meaningful correction. Risk/reward is the poorest it has been in 3 years.”

The iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF is up 12 percent year to date through Wednesday compared with the S&P 500’s 7 percent return. Moore noted the PHLX Semiconductor Sector Index is up about 200 percent over the last five years compared with the market’s nearly 70 percent gain.

The analyst said inventory levels at chip distributors are at a 10-year high.

As a result, Morgan Stanley’s median earnings per share estimates for chip stocks are 2 percent below the Wall Street average for the second half of this year and 4 percent below the consensus for 2019.

“Given the risks we see to semiconductor companies from an overheated semi cycle, we have been conservative in our estimates for broad-based companies,” Moore said.

In terms of individual stocks, the firm is lowering its rating to equal weight from overweight for Applied Materials. Morgan Stanley also reduced its rating to underweight from equal weight for On Semiconductor.

— CNBC’s
Michael Bloom
contributed to this story.



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Tech shares come roaring back, led by Netflix and Amazon

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Technology stocks moved sharply higher Friday, after a two-day slaughter saw the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index fall briefly into correction territory, down 10 percent from its recent highs.

Technology Select SPDR Fund, which tracks the S&P 500 technology sector, rose 3 percent in trading. Tech stocks were led by Netflix and Amazon, up 5.8 percent and 4 percent, respectively, while chipmakers AMD and Nvidia both rose more than 4 percent. Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet and Twitter shares were rose 2 percent or more.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 270 points in a rebound Friday.

Netflix and Microsoft were boosted by upgrades from Wall Street analysts who said the sell-off had gone far enough. Amazon was one of the stocks CNBC’s Jim Cramer said he was adding as part of his broader view that a market turnaround was due on Friday.

Tech stocks got clobbered during a sell-off across stock markets this week, amid concerns over rising interest rates, escalating trade tensions and tighter monetary policy. The past two days saw Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet all in correction territory after taking big hits this week.

On Thursday, the Nasdaq became the first major U.S. stock market benchmark to dip into a correction, falling as low as 7,274 in intraday trading — a drop over 10 percent from the most recent 52-week trading high of 8,133.30. A correction on Wall Street is defined as down more than 10 percent from its high.

Amazon is one of the top names to buy in this environment, according to Cramer. Although shares of Amazon trade at $1,776 a share, Cramer said he doesn’t know “when you buy Amazon other than when it’s down big and people are really scared.”



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Tencent Music to postpone its IPO until November due to global market selloff: WSJ, citing sources

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The logos of QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo are seen on the screen of an iPhone on June 12, 2018 in Paris, France. QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo are the three streaming Chinese music services owned by Tencent. 

Chesnot | Getty Images

The logos of QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo are seen on the screen of an iPhone on June 12, 2018 in Paris, France. QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo are the three streaming Chinese music services owned by Tencent. 

Tencent Music Entertainment Group will postpone its highly anticipated initial public offering because of the recent sell-off, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday citing people familiar with the deal.

The Journal reported that the company met with its underwriters this week, but sources said Tencent Music ultimately decided to push its debut back amid concerns that the sell-off would affect its pricing.

Stocks fell sharply Thursday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing more than 500 points lower, bringing its two-day losses to more than 1,300 points. Investors dumped equities around the globe amid concerns about rapidly rising interest rates, a possible global economic slowdown and overly ambitious tech valuations. The Nasdaq on Thursday became the first major benchmark to fall into correction territory.

Sources told the Journal that Tencent Music was originally set to kick off its roadshow next week and begin trading the following week. The Journal reported that the division now plans to wait until November.

The music arm of Chinese tech giant Tencent owns the four largest music apps in China and counts industry competitor Spotify as a backer. According to a prospectus filed earlier this month, Tencent Music plans on raising as much as $1 billion in what could be the largest U.S. IPO by a Chinese company since Alibaba raised over $20 billion in 2014.

Parent company Tencent owns 58 percent of the music division, while recently public Spotify owns 9 percent of shares.

Tencent did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Read the full report in The Wall Street Journal.

— CNBC’s Sara Salinas, Fred Imbert and Michael Sheetz contributed to this report.



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Sears has been liquidating outside of bankruptcy for years 

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In this Nov. 17, 2004 file photo, Kmart chairman Edward Lampert listens during a news conference to announce the merger of Kmart and Sears in New York.

Gregory Bull | AP

In this Nov. 17, 2004 file photo, Kmart chairman Edward Lampert listens during a news conference to announce the merger of Kmart and Sears in New York.

When Sears Holdings CEO Eddie Lampert merged Sears and Kmart in 2005, he believed that combining two fading giants would create a fortified competitor to stand up against new rivals like Walmart. But the deal was unable to stem the decline.

Over the past decade, Sears has had just one quarter of positive same-store sales. Unable to rely on the Sears’ business to pay the bills, Lampert instead sold or spun off many of its most valuable stores and brands. A thinning cash flow has left little money to reinvest in the company itself, letting it become more irrelevant as new competitors like Amazon rise.

In effect, Lampert liquidated Sears outside of a formal bankruptcy proceeding. But now, as Sears is staring down the real threat of bankruptcy, those moves may come back to haunt it.

Sears is asking lenders for money to support it in bankruptcy, but it has little to offer them by way of collateral or reassurance. That dearth makes it harder to avoid full-out liquidation, though not impossible, whether that comes before or after filing for protection, people familiar with the ongoing talks say.



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