Micron: Deteriorating Gross Margin Points To Share Price Downside (NASDAQ:MU)

ByThelma M. Gutowski

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In my post on Micron Technological know-how (NASDAQ:MU) printed on May perhaps 3, I offered a thesis that the macro backdrop is onerous for memory need and that’s why MU’s small business. I also pointed out that for Micron, gross margin “GM” is an superb metric to measure provide-demand from customers stability, and hence the health and fitness of the enterprise. Micron’s GM has plateaued for 4 quarters, indicating that GM might decline soon. The rate of MU’s shares was at $71.26 at the time of publication of that short article. The cost has declined to $53.65 at the close on July 1, representing a decline of about 25%. This is compared to a decrease of about 8.4% in the S&P 500 around the very same time span. In this posting, I will give an update to the thesis. In individual, the macro outlook has worsened, and I be expecting MU’s GM, profitability, and share value to keep on to decrease.

Micron’s Business Is In A Down Cycle – Gross Margin, Profitability, And Share Cost Will Probably Proceed To Drop

Micron is a wonderful firm. It is extremely aggressive with the other semiconductor memory suppliers of the environment. Its stability sheet is robust, and it generates significant totally free hard cash flow. It has been lessening its expense framework, generating it much more lucrative by way of a cycle. Micron and its friends have been a lot more rational in their capex financial investment. I seem ahead to getting MU shares someday, but currently I am shorter into this down cycle.

It is my viewpoint that in spite of the significant-tech mother nature of the producing course of action, memory is a commodity, and the business enterprise is cyclical. Profitability is pushed by source need balance. As a end result, Micron trades like a cyclical commodity stock with small PE ratios. That’s why, in buy to gain from buying and selling in MU inventory, one particular need to trade it like a cyclical commodity business, marketing close to the top rated and getting shut to the base.

I have uncovered that MU’s GM is the ideal indicator to foretell the major and the bottom of the cycle. A chart of MU’s historical GM and share rate is shown in Determine 1. The final GM information issue is management’s advice for F4Q, which is 41.5% at the mid-position.

Micron’s historical GM and price.

Figure 1: Micron’s historic GM and value. Observe: the price in Determine 1 is the closing price tag the day soon after earnings print. (Organization releases and SA facts base)

Figure 1 displays that traditionally, MU’s selling price peaked and then declined following the GM rolled more than and declined and bottomed and then enhanced after the GM bottomed out and greater. However, in the present-day cycle, the GM has plateaued for 4 quarters and investors have been marketing forward of the GM decrease, most likely because of the weakening macro outlook. In retrospect, the plateauing of the GM was probable an indication that even with continual charge reduction, MU is getting rid of pricing electric power and has to pass along most of its value savings to its shoppers in purchase to sustain marketplace share. This would have been an early sign of slackening demand.

Micron’s Purchaser Going through Small business Is Down, And Cloud, Enterprise And Auto Enterprises Will Almost certainly Roll About Shortly

This down cycle is driven by the macro-induced demand from customers destruction. This is not lost on administration and the analysts. The words and phrases “macro” and “macroeconomics” appeared no much less than ten instances in the F3Q2022CC. The macro headwinds are front and heart in everyone’s issue.

Micron described that the buyer struggling with corporations (smartphone and consumer Personal computer) are deteriorating swiftly during F3Q. This is something that I have pointed out in my May possibly 3 short article. Micron also described that the information heart, company, and vehicle business enterprise are holding up. For the duration of the Q&A session, analysts expressed their issues for the robustness of the info centre company as organization CIOs are anxious with the macro-outlook and are pulling back on their spending plan. Analysts also pointed out that Chinese knowledge facilities have now pulled back again their spending. Even more, memory inventory is elevated in the info middle provide chain, even larger than right before the pandemic. When administration did not present any concrete solutions, it is possible that the analysts’ considerations are just leading indicators of a downturn in the data heart enterprise.

Equally, when business consumers tighten their spending budget, the business customer business will probably decline. The auto company is generally really delicate to the overall economy. With the macro backdrop deteriorating promptly, I will not be astonished that the vehicle enterprise will roll about quickly. For this reason, it is possible that all of MU’s small business segments will decline in the following a number of quarters, further more impacting earnings, GM, profitability, and share rate.

Management has indicated that current market visibility is worsening. This can be observed also in the reduce income and GM advice for F4Q and broader bands for the assistance. Profits assistance is at $7.2 billion in contrast to analysts’ consensus of $9.02 billion, a large pass up. The profits guidance band is widened from a usual +/- $200 million to +/- $400 million. In the same way, the GM steering represents a drop of 520 foundation level at the mid-place and the band is widened from a regular +/- 1% to +/-1.5%. Further, administration refused to forecast when this cycle will base. Frankly, I do not feel that they know for the reason that this down cycle is macro-driven and they, like most people, have incredibly minimal visibility on the trajectory of the macro.< /p>

I give administration credit rating for doing items that are in just their handle. Administration will slash operating fees and capex. They will lessen wafer entrance close utilization in 2023. On the other hand, given the extensive guide time in the manufacturing cycle and the speedily declining demand from customers, management expects inventory, now at 108 days of income, to explode by possibly as much as 20 much more days of sales. This will likely further exacerbate the downturn in GM due to prospective publish-downs, reduce utilization of wafer entrance finish, and larger COGS carried in stock. As a final result, I be expecting GM to decline further more further than F4Q, taking MU’s share value down with it along the way.

Gross Margin Is In all probability The Very best Indicator To Enjoy For The Base

An investor’s purely natural issue is: when will the share rate bottom? I do not know, but I will let my GM indicator manual me. I imagine it is the ideal indicator for predicting the turning of the cycle and will look at equally the GM and the charge of decline of the GM. When the fee of drop moderates, it may well be time to shut my limited positions and go extensive.

Some readers have commented in my May 3 post that the small PE ratio of MU shares will offer assistance for its share price. Sad to say, earnings will likely drop in a down cycle, causing the PE ratio to boost. Consequently, I consider that for most cyclical stocks like MU, the time to buy is when PE is sky-high. The time to market is when the PE is small. But other people have instructed that MU’s e-book value of about $43 for each share may well deliver a flooring. Sadly, cyclical organizations could sell underneath book price in a down cycle. That’s why, an investor may perhaps not come across comfort and ease in the e book value to give help need to the macro get really unappealing.

Macro Indicators Are Handy To Gauge The Base Of Micron Shares As Effectively

The macroeconomic headwinds impacting the around the world economic system are very well recognized: Inflation, Fed tightening, war in Ukraine, Europe mired in a recession and electrical power disaster, large electricity costs, China’s economic system is hurting because of to the collapse of its assets builders, COVID-19 lock-down, and policies versus its tech providers. These similar headwinds are impacting desire for MU’s memory solutions around the world as perfectly.

Generally, a memory down cycle lasts about 8 quarters. With the plateauing of the GM for 4 quarters, we might be a single to four quarters into this down cycle, depending on when you count as the commence of the down cycle. Therefore, there may perhaps be four or 7 additional quarters to go prior to this down cycle ends. Having said that, given that this cycle is driven by the macro that will probable determine the duration of this cycle. That’s why, it pays to look at the macro indicators.

Revealed in Figure 2 is a record of macro indicators that I intend to observe in conjunction with my GM indicator. I borrowed this record from Mr. David Rosenberg of Rosenberg Study. You can locate his work on this record of indicators below among time stamps 1:36 and 4:32.

List of macroeconomic indicators to watch for market bottom.

Figure 2: List of macroeconomic indicators to enjoy for sector base. (Rosenberg Exploration)

When my GM indicator demonstrates an inflection and when most of these indicators in Determine 2 have achieved or appear close to their respective goal values, then it would be time to near my brief positions and go extended MU shares. Right until then, I will permit my short positions journey.

On the lookout at the indicators in Determine 2, one should not obtain as well substantially ease and comfort in the ahead PE of the S&P 500 currently being so shut to the target worth. I think that downward revision of ahead earnings will arrive in earnest when 3Q earnings are reported setting up in quite a few weeks. Downward revision will very likely proceed for at minimum the subsequent six months, if not for a longer period, thereby increasing the ahead PE ratio.

The current 10-yr treasury yield is 2.889% although the S&P 500 dividend yield is 1.64%. For the ratio of the two yield numbers to get to parity, possibly the treasury yield has to appear down a good deal or the S&P 500 has to decline a large amount. Both equally will likely take place as the economic downturn developments. This just tells me that there is significantly draw back possibility for MU share value, even nevertheless it has now declined by 45% from its peak of this cycle.


In the final cycle, traders have predicted the peaking and bottoming of MU’s GM and acted accordingly ahead of the inflection points. Consequently, there is a hazard that buyers may well buy in advance of the base, thereby reducing the return on my shorts and reducing the prospective achieve of my potential longs. The economic system could not worsen as substantially as I assume, and therefore MU’s shares may well rebound quickly. Micron, with its share price down appreciably, may perhaps entice a suitor, triggering share price tag to bounce. Selling brief always carries a risk of possibly unlimited decline. Getting a place possibility carries a chance of finish reduction of one’s funds.


Micron’s management has guided GM and profits to drop 520 bps and 16.7%, respectively, QoQ at the mid-stage. More importantly, the earnings assistance is 20% under analysts’ consensus, a massive overlook! It is very likely that this down cycle will very last perfectly into 2023, resulting in Micron’s share price tag to carry on to drop. This down cycle is pushed by macro headwinds. Hence, it pays to watch my GM indicator for its inflection as perfectly as some macro indicators to guide the timing of the closing of my shorts and to go very long.