SEMI/SEAJ: Feb. tool demand keeps chugging along

March 19, 2010 – The chip industry keeps chugging along the recovery road, with another "dramatic" month compared to the depths of where we were a year ago, according to the latest monthly figures from SEMI.

According to North American-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment, demand rose about 4%-6% sequentially in February, with bookings rising to about $1.23B, and billings crossing the $1B mark to $1.01B. (Both figures are a three-month average). Comparisons to the same period a year ago look stellar, since that was the low-water mark of the downturn: Feb. 2010 bookings were up 377% Y/Y, and billings up 92.5%. With the continued demand, the book-to-bill ratio (B:B) stayed well above parity at 1.23 — meaning $123 worth of orders were received for every $100 shipped during the month.

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Some more impressive comparative statistics:

  • Bookings are at their highest in two and a half years (Sept. 2007, $1.235B). January had been highest in nearly two years.  For a second straight month, final bookings tallies for the previous month had to be revised upwards by about $50M.
  • Billings are at their highest in a year and a half (August 2008, $1.06B), the last time they crossed the $1B/month mark, and have been rising sequentially for 10 consecutive quarters.
  • Perhaps the most impressive statistic: Jan-Feb represent the first sequential >1.2 B:B months in more than seven years (Jun-Jul 2002, 1.26-1.22). The B:B also has been above parity for eight straight months. For a statistic generally viewed as the key measuring stick for business coming in (orders) vs. going out (sales), that’s an important number to watch.


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The numbers continue to look very good in Japan’s semiconductor equipment sector as well. Orders for chip tools crept up 1.5% to about ¥86.3B, while sales rose 3.4% to ¥64.6B, according to the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan (SEAJ). (Like the SEMI numbers, year/year comparisons are strikingly good: orders up 531% and sales up 66% vs. Feb. 2009.) Though the month-on-month growth is a bit slower than in recent months, Japan’s B:B remains at very high levels above 1.34 — it has dipped below 1.30 only once in the past seven months.

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