Why 2Q makes or breaks a “good” year for IC sales

September 4, 2012 - In an analysis of quarterly IC market growth rates, IC Insights pulls up an unusual phenomenon: the performance during the second calendar quarter takes the spotlight in years of better growth, which is counter to historical norms.

Averaging IC market growth over the past 30 years, the third quarter saw the highest Q/Q increase at almost 6%, while 1Q was typically the softest (-1.4%) — nothing surprising there, given seasonal trends of a pre-holiday-season pickup and then letdown. But categorizing the results as "good" vs. "bad" years of IC market growth (defined as 10% annual growth) surfaced a curious trend. In bad years, the first half of the year typically takes the brunt of the slowdown, while the second half usually rebounds. But in good years, the second quarter typically shows the highest sequential growth rate, with 3Q and 4Q slowing but still healthy, and even typically-soft 1Q levels stay in the black (3.1%).

How does this play out in in today’s IC environment? In 2012, IC sales saw negative growth in 1Q but are expected to be in the black through the rest of the year. IC Insights currently forecasts a 10.5% increase in 2H12 vs. 1H12. (Note that others aren’t so upbeat about 2012′s prospects; analyst firm IHS iSuppil now projects a razor-thin decline in 2012 IC sales.)

Another trend the firm teases out of the data: the IC market is becoming increasingly dependent upon seasonal growth in 3Q12. (Not surprising as electronic systems sales have shifted more heavily from business to consumers in the past few decades.) Two of today’s biggest markets are PCs and cellphones, both of which are highly seasonal in nature. Bottom line: expect the IC market to continue its pattern of stronger 3Q seasonality.

Meanwhile, 4Q IC sales have been trending down for the better part of three decades — though in 2012 the expected introduction of new products (smartphones, tablet PCs, ultrabooks) timed for late 3Q12 might give 4Q12 sales a rare sequential boost, by as much as 3% this year, the firm notes.

Average sequential quarterly IC market growth rates, 1983-2012 (f). (Courtesy of IC Insights)

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