Wall Street has a disquieting tendency to home in on Intel ( INTC) and ignore everything else in chipland. That's certainly been the case over the past few weeks, amid the noise leading up to Intel's closely monitored midquarter update after the bell Thursday. The stock lost ground after Intel said its microprocessor business has been a little weak , with shares recently down 1.6%, or 48 cents, to $29.17. Many other chip names dipped in sympathy. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index was off 0.5%. But the selling may offer a decent time to take a look at stocks besides the 800-pound Intel. With the improving chip cycle expected to play out for at least another couple of quarters, plenty of other stocks can expect to take part in the same profit expansion and robust sales growth seen by the industry leader. Most tech pundits expect overall 2004 chip-sales growth to best the industry's 18.3% revenue growth in 2003, when industry sales totaled $166 billion. Granted, plenty of money managers consider Intel itself a smart buy at current levels. But Intel's business still hinges largely on the fortunes of the computer hardware market, and management counseled investors Thursday not to expect any sudden acceleration in enterprise computer buying. So it's not surprising that investors who want to bet on the chip rebound have diversified into many kinds of chip plays, both in large-caps and smaller outfits.
Money manager Sunil Reddy owns Intel as a large-cap tech play in the ( FSQGX) Fifth Third Quality Growth fund he co-manages. But in his separately managed ( FTTAX) Fifth Third Technology fund, he has stakes in chip holdings geared to other markets, such as communications. "I think the communications end market still hasn't seen the strength it will see -- there have been only one or two quarters of stabilization," he said. One likely beneficiary is Xilinx ( XLNX), which has already seen a bounce from strengthening demand in the communications sector that accounts for half of its revenue. After three flat quarters in a row, Xilinx said December quarter sales in the communications sector grew 20% sequentially. The company easily surpassed Wall Street sales estimates when it issued guidance in January, and it sweetened the outlook a little last week .