Semiconductor equipment orders from North American producers slipped 8% month-to-month to $1.4 billion in July, but shipments stayed flat at $1.3 billion, resulting in a book-to-bill ratio of 1.11, said the SEMI trade group in its latest monthly report.
After three months of steady improvements, July's preliminary orders have slipped back to the $1.4 billion level logged in April of this year. July's bookings do mark a 96% improvement over year-ago levels, but are down from June's revised $1.5 billion. Shipments in the month were up 14% from shipments of $1.1 billion in July 1998. SEMI noted that July's bookings were 86% of the industry's previous cycle peak of $1.6 billion, reached in November 1997. All figures are three-month moving averages.
SEMI's report supports a number of recent forecasts which call for slow market recovery, with an equipment boom seen on the late 2000/early 2001 horizon. Stan Myers, SEMI president, said equipment purchases have been “selective and mostly technology driven,” though in its recent Q3 announcement Applied Materials said it is also beginning to see the advent of capacity-driven buys. While at a healthy level, Applied's orders of $1.46 billion came in at the low end of some analysts' projections, rising just 5% quarter-to-quarter.