June 22, 2009 – The semiconductor equipment industry still looks awful, but yet another sign of a possible bottom and rebound: May bookings saw the second-biggest M/M spike in the past five and a half years, according to data from SEMI.
Worldwide bookings (a three-month average) rose nearly 16% vs. April to $288.5M; that’s the most since October 2008 (29%), but after that one must go way back to Dec. 2003 for a higher M/M spike (28%). Billings, meanwhile, inched up 1.6%, the first M/M increase in sales since March 2008, ending a string of 13 consecutive declines. And the book-to-bill ratio rose to 0.74 — meaning $75 in orders were received for every $100 billed out — well above the ~0.5ish levels seen in recent months.
Japan’s industry is suffering through similar woes. Global orders for Japanese chipmaking tools sunk 74% Y/Y in May to ¥25.97B, with a B:B of 0.66, according to the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan (SEAJ). Though here, too, some signs for optimism — Japan’s B:B was a miserable 0.44 in April.
While the numbers suggest some positivity — “the sharp declines have subsided,” stated Dan Tracy, SEMI’s senior director of industry research and statistics, in a statement — don’t miss the bigger picture. Tool sales are still “near historically low levels,” he pointed out, down ~70% from a year ago. “While recent industry data show increased semiconductor device unit sales, the industry is waiting for stronger signals to increase capital investments.”