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LTX picks up momentum

Shares of LTX Corp. (Nasdaq: LTXX) moved up 7/8, or 13 percent, to a 52-week high of 7 3/8 Monday after Needham & Co. upgraded the semiconductor-equipment maker from a "buy" recommendation to "strong buy."

LTX has become a hot property on Wall Street in the past couple of months. On Wednesday, Gruntal & Co. also bumped it to a "strong buy" from a "buy" after it landed a decent contract with Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN).

LYX Corp.'s Fusion HF will be used as part of Texas Instrument's test process for its advanced digital signal processor line.

Since its initial public offering in 1990, LTX has failed to generate much excitement. The stock surged to an all-time high of 14 and change in September 1995, but has mainly hovered between $3 to $10 a share for most of its public life.

Following Monday's upgrade, the Westwood, Mass.-based firm is now rated either a "buy" or "strong buy" by three of the four analysts following the stock. It also marks the second time Needham & Co. has upgraded the stock in the past two months.

Among other widely held chip-equipment stocks, Applied Materials Inc. (Nasdaq: AMAT) picked up 3/16 to 56 15/16; Novellus Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: NVLS) shed 1/16 to 52 13/16 and Lam Research Corp. (Nasdaq: LRCX) fell 1 3/4 to 30 5/8.

Last quarter, it posted a profit of $1.1 million, or 3 cents a share, on sales of $33.6 million.

First Call consensus expects it to lose 3 cents a share in its third quarter, a marked improvement from the $6.3 million, or 17 cents a share, it lost in the year-ago period.

LTX shares hit an all-time low of 15/16 in October.