TSMC, easily the world's biggest chip contract manufacturer (foundry), just reported June sales of NT85.9 billion ($2.77 billion), up 6.8% month-to-month and 21.9% annually. For comparison, TSMC's sales had been down on an annual basis 0.7% in May, 8.8% in April and 11.8% in Q1, amid a broader chip industry downturn.
Easier annual comparisons did admittedly contribute to TSMC's sales growth improvement. Nonetheless, the company's June sales print means that it had total Q2 revenue of NT241 billion ($7.76 billion), above April guidance of $7.55 billion to $7.65 billion.
As of the time of this article, TSMC's shares are up 2.3% to $40.57 on the news. That leaves them up 10% on the year, and 7% over the last 12 months.
TSMC, as usual, didn't share any details in its sales report about which types of chips or end-markets led its June and Q2 sales to top expectations. More color about near-term sales trends should be shared when TSMC's Q2 report and earnings call arrive on July 18; the company will also likely give sales guidance for the seasonally strong third quarter.
Nonetheless, given TSMC's strong exposure to major chip developers such as Apple (AAPL) , Nvidia (NVDA) , AMD (AMD) , Qualcomm (QCOM) , Xilinx (XLNX) and MediaTek, its Q2 sales beat is encouraging news for a chip sector that saw a major spring selloff thanks to worries about escalating trade tensions in general, and a ban on U.S. parts and software sales to Huawei in particular.
The results also might reflect well on demand for chips relying on TSMC's cutting-edge, 7-nanometer (7nm) manufacturing process node. Apple, AMD, Qualcomm, Xilinx, MediaTek and Huawei are among the TSMC clients that have announced 7nm chips, with AMD having just begun selling its first 7nm PC CPUs and new 7nm gaming GPUs.
TSMC's sales print is one of a few positive stories that chip stocks, many of which continue trading at pretty subdued forward earnings multiples, have seen in recent weeks. Arguably the biggest of the others: The Trump Administration's easing of the Huawei ban to allow U.S. suppliers to ship items for Huawei products that aren't considered national security risks. This move was a boon for the many U.S. chip developers with strong Huawei exposure, and also tempered fears about retaliatory measures from Beijing against U.S. companies -- including fears about the blocking of chip M&A transactions.
In addition, a few days before the Huawei ban was eased, chip stocks rallied on better-than-feared results and guidance from memory giant Micron. Though Micron issued below-consensus guidance for its August quarter and disclosed (unsurprisingly) that it's still seeing major memory price declines, the fact that the company beat its May quarter estimates and slightly improved its full-year DRAM demand outlook went over well.
Collectively, chip stocks are still clearly vulnerable to any potential re-escalation of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing. But in the event that these tensions continue thawing, the numbers and commentary being shared by the likes of TSMC and Micron provide reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the group -- or at least much of it -- at current valuations.