SAN FRANCISCO -- With the new year upon us, it seems that semiconductor equipment stocks are ready to party like it's ... no, we can't say that.

Still, shares of semi-equipment stocks soared today on reports that

Samsung Corp.

was soliciting bids for $1.2 billion in equipment for a new semiconductor manufacturing plant, sources said. In addition,

SoundView Financial Group

analyst

Michael O'Brien

upgraded three equipment manufacturers --

KLA-Tencor

(KLAC) - Get Report

,

Lam Research

(LRCX) - Get Report

and

Teradyne

(TER) - Get Report

-- also giving the sector a boost.

The

Philadelphia Semiconductor Index

rose 2.2% behind gains in a number of stocks.

O'Brien upgraded Lam Research to a buy from hold, KLA-Tencor to a strong buy from hold and Teradyne to strong buy from buy. Lam Research was up 33% today, while KLA was up 15% and Teradyne 8.3%. SoundView Financial has not performed any underwriting for these companies.

"I've been cautious based on valuations vs. perceived fundamentals," said O'Brien. "The fundamentals are getting stronger and I'm willing to put a higher multiple than I was before."

Brett Hodess, analyst with

NationsBanc Montgomery Securities

, said the news about Samsung has been around for a while, but more people have been talking about it the past two days.

"The fundamentals are starting to slowly improve and you have a strong stock market where people latch on to any good news," said Hodess, who

looks like a hero for having suggested that the sector was bottoming out in July.

More Analysts' Upgrades

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

got help not only from the ongoing

MacWorld

conference, but also reports that

Warburg Dillon Read

analyst Charles Wolf began coverage of the company with a buy rating and a target price of 50. Apple was up 2 1/16 to 43 5/16. He also initiated coverage of

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

and

Gateway

(GTW)

with buy ratings. Shares of

Compaq

(CPQ)

also rallied. Wolf has a hold rating on the stock.

Finally, shares of

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

ended up 5 1/2 to 146 1/2 following news that

Lehman Brothers

raised the price target on the stock to 185.