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Texas Instruments (
TXN) may be best-known to school kids as the iron-fisted control of the country's market for graphing calculators, but to investors (and engineers), the firm's most important achievement comes from being the world's biggest analog chipmaker. Early filings point to hedge funds boosting their stake in the firm in a big way; funds acquired more than a million shares of TXN in the third quarter, up from 300,000 shares in the prior quarter.
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TXN's analog chip dominance is the lynchpin of its growth strategy right now. Analog chips are used to process analog signals (like the human vocie) and turn them into digital ones. As a result, TXN has a big role supplying components to the fast-paced mobile phone market. The firm has been entrenching itself in the chip business, spending money on next generation manufacturing equipment and acquiring National Semiconductor last year in a deal that dramatically boosted TXN's positioning in the analog chip market.
The chipmaking business is capital intense, a fact that generally means that the costs of replicating chip foundries are very high. Combine Texas Instruments' manufacturing capacity with a cyclical downturn that's just starting to turn higher, and this stock starts to look pretty good. Watch out for earnings on Oct. 21.