A handful of semiconductor makers were rising ahead of the open Thursday after Merrill Lynch talked up the sector in a research note.
"We think the underpinning now exists for a much more sustained, fundamentally based upward move in semiconductor stock prices," the brokerage wrote.
Merrill upgraded to buy from neutral
. It maintained buys on
In its note, Merrill noted that the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index has risen sharply in the last six months, but is roughly flat over the past year.
"With the SOX back at 380, it's fair to wonder why we are shifting our stance on the sector now," Merrill wrote. "We frame our answer like any other investor, in terms of risk-adjusted return. We don't see much potential downside.
"Although valuations are high, earnings estimates seem reasonable or even conservative, unlike 2002. Without meaningful reductions to the earnings outlooks for companies, we think that the likelihood of a step backward in valuations is minimal."
On the Instinet premarket session, Intel was up 11 cents, or 0.4%, to $24.60, while Semtech was adding $1.01, or 6%, to $17.45. The semiconductors HOLDRs basket was up about 2%.