Trump's latest tough trade action could hit already struggling chip stocks

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A man walking past a Huawei P20 smartphone advertisement is reflected in a glass door in front of a Huawei logo, at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China December 6, 2018. 

Aly Song | Reuters

Chip stocks have been struggling of late as trade tensions between China and the U.S. increase. The Trump administration’s latest move on that front could add pressure to the chipmakers.

President Donald Trump declared on Wednesday a national emergency over threats to American technology, which was followed by the Commerce Department adding China’s Huawei Technologies to its Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Entity List. This move makes it harder for U.S. companies to do business with the Chinese telecom giant.

The move could hurt semiconductor companies like Skyworks Solutions, Qorvo, Broadcom, Micron Technology and Analog Devices since they have considerable revenue exposure to Huawei. Morgan Stanley estimates that about 10% of Skyworks and Qorvo’s sales come from Huawei while Broadcom’s exposure is in the mid-single digits. Micron, meanwhile, has had 13% of its sales come from Huawei the past two quarters while Analog Devices’ exposure ranges between in the mid-to-high single digits.

“We believe the potential sanctions will push Huawei and other Chinese OEMs to start using more Japanese suppliers and local solutions, despite potentially higher costs compared to US component suppliers,” Jun Zhang, China TMT analyst at Rosenblatt Securities, said in a note. “We also think the potential ban on Huawei may drive Chinese consumers to support Huawei and boycott US brand products,” including Apple.

The administration’s declaration of a national emergency follows a tariff hike on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods earlier this month. China then retaliated by raising levies on $60 billion worth of U.S. products.

These moves have knocked down the S&P 500 by more than 2% since May 3. Chipmakers have also struggled. Through Wednesday’s close, Micron and Skyworks have fallen 11.4% and 10.1%, respectively, in that time period. Analog Devices is down 7.8% in that time period while Broadcom and Qorvo have lost 3.6% and 2.4%, respectively.

“While this is still only a threat, the implications for the semi supply chain could be very material,” Mizuho Securities analyst Vijay Rakesh wrote in a note, referring to the Huawei news. He said Huawei has between 20% and 30% of the global networking and 5G infrastructure market share.

—CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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