SIA: Chips extend growth in August, but outlook still cautious

Global sales of semiconductors rose 2.4% in August vs. July to $22.7B, slightly off the previous month’s 3% gain but better than June’s flat growth, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). But the group remains cautious about the near-term outlook, thanks to the recent macroeconomic turmoil that could seriously damage consumers’ confidence heading into the critical gadget-buying holiday season.

Total chip sales (a three-month moving average) rose 5.5% vs. August 2007, also slightly slower than Y-Y clips of 7.7% in July and 8.0% in June. (Excluding the volatile memory segment and its still-slumping pricing environment, chip sales increased 11.4% Y-Y.) Year-to-date, chip sales of $171.6B are about 4.3% ahead of the same pace in 2007.

Geographically, all regions except the Americas squeaked out slight sales growth vs. the prior month and year-ago month. The Americas region is still clearly experiencing a significant slowdown vs. a year ago (-7.3% in August, -2.4% YTD).

The SIA once also posted actual monthly sales figures along with the three-month moving average, but those numbers are now restricted for clients only, according to a SIA rep.

In a statement, SIA president George Scalise pointed to strength in hallmark demand drivers PCs and cell phones, citing Credit Suisse estimates. PC unit sales rose 9.1% in August, a slight slowdown from July, but are seen rising 13% for all of 2008. Cell phone unit sales, especially strong in emerging markets, are seen up 10% for the year.

Scalise also expressed caution about the recent financial meltdown in the US, and its possible impact to the confidence of gadget-buying consumers, which now account for more than half of semiconductor sales. “It is essential for Congress to move swiftly to restore stability to the U.S. financial system,” he urged.


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