Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Who's ahead in photonics stocks

In the last post, I noted that some photonics stocks have done nicely in 2009 following the crash one year ago. My very cursory examinations suggests that a few companies in the LED space are doing very nicely indeed. Other are making good progress toward their 2007 and 2008 levels, even if there is a way to go.

Why it matters. A rising stock market is a sign that investors think that earnings (that is, profits) will rise over coming years. It also makes all those pesky owners happy so that layoffs will stop and staff can breathe easier. And sometimes the employee is one of those owners (or has an option to become one). So, a rising stock price is usually good news, provided you remember that it is a secondary market, something of a beauty contest. Not being a Wall Street financial analyst type, I generally stay away from following stock prices, but sometimes it's illuminating.

High fliers. One of the stars right now is Cree, the LED supplier. Its stock price has tripled from its low, and is well above its 2008 peak. Aixtron is even better, at about 6X above its low, and double its 2008 peak. Cymer has doubled to recover to its 2007 level. I think it's safe to say these stocks are ahead of the overall market average, although it depends on where you start counting.

Holding their own. Others are holding their own against the NASDAQ average. Omnivision is up about 3-4X from its low, more or less in its earlier territory. Coherent has approximately doubled, getting closer to its usual territory. FLIR hasn't reached its all-time peak, but it's back to some of its 2008 level. IPG is getting there.

In the dog house. Some companies seem to be in a long U-shaped recession, well below the overall stock market. Rofin is deep into manufacturing, where the stock market doesn't expect good earnings for a while. Telecom system vendors like Alcatel-Lucent, Ciena, and Infinera are also well below the NASDAQ average for the period. Especially Infinera.

What about P/E ratios? High prices are nice, but what about the P/E ratio? That would say something about the kind of stock bargains that are out there. Here the news isn't so good. High-flying Cree is at 94 today. Cymer is near 300, Rofin at 75. But this is hardly fair, since these companies actually have positive earnings even now, and while many others don't. More down-to-earth, by the way, is FLIR, at a P/E ratio of 20.

I couldn't post the Yahoo graphs into this blog, but you can run the charts yourself here.

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