SEMI: Chip tool demand ticks up in Feb.

Mar. 19, 2008 – Demand for semiconductor manufacturing equipment continues to improve with a couple of notable bright spots, though the market is still showing softness and lower growth than a year ago, according to the latest monthly data from SEMI.

First, the good news: billings for equipment totaled $1.32B in February, up 2.8% from January — the first M-M increase in sales since June of last year. Sales were down -7.6% from Feb. 2007 and are in the red for seven consecutive months, but both M-M and Y-Y comparisons are significant improvements from January.

Bookings in February, meanwhile, rose 7.7% M-M, the best showing since last April, to $1.23B, and Y-Y growth was -12.1%, better than the ~-20 declines seen through most of 2H07 (though still the ninth consecutive month of double-digit growth declines).

After taking a small cut out of December figures, SEMI put some back into January: ~$11M into final billings and ~$18M into final bookings, which slightly improved both M-M and Y-Y comparisons by roughly a percentage point.

The book-to-bill ratio (B:B) continued to rise in February, now at 0.93 (meaning that $93 worth of orders were received for every $100 worth of product billed for the month). It’s the first time the B:B has cracked the 0.9 threshold since last spring, and the fifth straight month of improvement, since hitting a floor of 0.79 in September.

Despite some rays of sunshine in the February data, the industry outlook remains one of caution. “Though current inventory and utilization rates are at healthy levels, device manufacturers are being conservative in their capex spending,” noted SEMI president/CEO Stanley Myers, in a statement.


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