Wall Street analysts have made a living miscalling the bottom in semiconductor sales this year. Now they're saying it'll be wireless chipmakers that lead the way to recovery, if one ever happens.

Lehman Brothers initiated coverage of several wireless chipmakers this morning with market perform ratings. Among them were

RF Micro Devices

(RFMD)

TST Recommends

,

Triquint Semiconductor

(TQNT)

,

Anadigics

(ANAD)

, and

Alpha Industries

(AHAA)

.

The market perform label is a lukewarm endorsement, and the analysts said that while there are signs of inventory improvement and reordering in the sector, the stocks are fairly valued.

"The handset end market entered the inventory correction first, and we believe it will be the first to exit the inventory correction," said Dan Niles and Joseph To in the Lehman Brothers' research note.

A few trends have encouraged analysts: RF Micro Devices said earlier this month that it expects to make a profit again this year. On Aug. 22, Triquint said it saw signs that mobile-telephone orders would pick up a bit by year-end.

Texas Instruments

(TXN) - Get Report

repeated that sentiment yesterday.

Wireless chipmakers provide backbone technology for cellular-equipment manufacturers, such as

Motorola

(MOT)

,

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

, and

Ericsson

(ERICY)

. Industry experts are currently projecting total handset sales of $430 million for 2002, up from about $390 in 2001.

"While wireless semiconductor orders appear to be rebounding now that the supply chain is returning to more reasonable inventory levels, we believe it is unclear whether this is just a seasonal phenomenon -- inventory replenishment -- or a sign of a pickup in demand," said To, in an interview with

TheStreet.com

. "That won't be clear until December or January."

Other than Anadigics, which rose 48 cents to $15.46, each of the stocks fell today, alongside the Nasdaq, which lost 21.8 points, or 1.17%, to 1,843.1. RF Micro declined $2.35, or 8.64%, to $24.85, Triquint decreased 76 cents, or 3.32%, to $22.10, and Alpha Industries dropped $1.84, or 5.41%, to $32.16.

Elsewhere in the industry, microprocessor manufacturer

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

said this afternoon that it expects to post a third-quarter loss. The company predicts revenues will fall 15% from the previous quarter. But the company said it believes PC processor unit sales in the current quarter will remain at or near the record level of the second quarter, when AMD sold 7.8 million units.

As demand for personal computers has slowed in the current economic downturn, AMD has been in the middle of a price war with rival

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

for market share. AMD slipped 66 cents, or 4.44%, to $14.20 today, while Intel lost 41 cents, or 1.44%, to $28.10. The Philadephia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index fell 3.3%.