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Merrill Lynch Upgrades ASML to 'Buy'

Merrill Lynch upgraded ASML (ASML) to buy from neutral.

Analyst Andrew Griffin says a pick-up in chip-equipment spending by customers is now much closer to reality, and should provide a positive catalyst in the next six months. He calls ASML his favorite pure-play in the chip sector. He says the strengthening yen is positive for the company, as its only competitors are Japanese; this provides a hedge against further strength in the euro vs. the dollar, unlike other European semiconductor plays.

Griffin says ASML trades at a substantial discount to U.S. peers on sales and asset multiples. He narrowed the 2003 estimate for a 35 euro cents loss per share to a 32 euro cents loss, and raised the 30 euro cents 2004 earnings per share estimate to 34 euro cents. He has a $16.74 target.

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