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A Bargain When the Chips Are Down

AMONG TODAY'S STRUGGLING INDUSTRIES, the semiconductor business hurts as much as any. Advanced Micro Devices makes more red ink than microprocessors. Memory makers like Micron Technology and Qimonda lose hundreds of millions a quarter. A shakeout looms.

The chip industry's distress has affected its capital-equipment suppliers. Order backlogs have eroded for a year at semicap leaders Applied Materials, ASML Holding and KLA-Tencor -- dragging their shares to levels not seen since early in the decade. These three supply the primary tools for different steps in chip production. Of the group, the Nasdaq-listed shares of ASML (ticker: ASML) are the cheapest ...