SEMI demand at historic lows…but now at bottom?

March 23, 2009 – Demand for semiconductor manufacturing equipment continues to plod along at historic lows, but those seeking any sign of optimism may have a little ray of hope to point to.

North America-based manufacturers of chipmaking tools posted $263.5M in bookings in February, about a -5% decline from the prior month — that’s significantly better than we’ve seen since the industry (and greater economy) fell off the precipice late last year, and certainly in the past few months which witnessed two-thirds of bookings evaporate in Dec-Jan. The year-ago comparison is still ugly, though, down about -78% from Feb. 2008.

Billings also showed some slowing declines, down 6.5% M-M to $546.1M, better than the low- to mid-teens declines seen in recent months. Here, too, the past couple of months have been brutal, with sales declining by more than 27% in Dec-Jan. Similarly, though, the Y-Y decline continues to plunge, now to -58%.

Pessimists still have plenty to handwring about. The slowing declines reflect in the B:B, which actually improved a tick to 0.48, meaning that for every $100 worth of product billed out for the month, only $0.48 worth of orders came in.

The levels are at their lowest since 1991 — when SEMI first began tracking the numbers, according to Dan Tracy, senior director of industry research and statistics at SEMI. “Spending and investments remain at minimal levels as the semiconductor industry waits for clearer signals indicating improvement in end market demand,” he said in a statement.


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