SEMI: March tool demand takes a step back

Apr. 18, 2008 – Even the quarterly-ending month couldn’t muster enough strength to give the industry a positive boost, as demand continues to show softness in the semiconductor equipment sector, according to the latest data from SEMI.

The group says March tool bookings in North America were about $1.16B, -4.0% lower than February and -18.5% lower than a year ago. Orders returned to the trend of ~-20% Y-Y declines seen through most of 2H07 and into January 2008, and now represent a tenth consecutive month of double-digit growth declines.

Sales of roughly $1.29B declined about -1.3% M-M and -9.9% Y-Y. On a M-M comparison they slipped back to a small single-digit decline, roughly where they’ve been since last June. Y-Y sales growth has now been in the red for eight months, and the ~10% Y-Y decline is the second-highest since last summer.

The bigger slump in orders means the book-to-bill ratio (B:B), which had risen for five straight months, fell back to 0.89, meaning $89 worth of orders were received for every $100 worth of product billed for the month.

In a statement, SEMI’s Dan Tracy, senior director of Industry Research and Statistics, noted that orders have stayed generally at constant levels for the past six months, “a reflection of the uncertainty in the semiconductor industry and with current economic conditions.”

The soft numbers from March come despite the fact that SEMI tweaked down its original projections for February, which actually made the M-M declines less pronounced (bookings would have been -5.8% instead of -4%). The group shaved about $5.2B from Feb. billings, which translated into about 0.3% less growth both M-M and Y-Y. Bookings were cut by $23.5M, which took about 2% off the month’s M-M/Y-Y growth, and lowered the Feb. B:B by a point to 0.92.


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