September IC sales bounce in Americas, tracking to -4% for FY2012

November 6, 2012 - A big boost in demand in the US helped ratchet up chip sales growth in September to its highest month-vs.-month rise in over two years, according to the latest data from the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).

After being essentially flat in August, global semiconductor sales rose to $24.79 billion in September, up nearly 2% from August. (The gap continues to widen vs. a year ago, though, now at nearly -4%). Sales in the third quarter totaled $74.4B, also up nearly 2% from 2Q12, but down -4.7% from 3Q11.

By regions, growth was most significant in the Americas, which posted its largest M-M increase since May 2010; sales increased across all other regions as well: Asia-Pacific (1.6%), Europe (0.7%), and Japan (0.2%). Compared with a year ago, though, all regions are still underwater, and in fact outside the Americas region the Y/Y decline is widening. On the bright side, the moving three-month average picked up nicely in September, from a minor decline in August to nearly 2% growth in September.

Brian Toohey, SIA president/CEO, credited the semiconductor industry’s "relative steadiness in a choppy global economy," but cautioned that lingering economic headwinds continue to pressure demand.

Barclays analyst CJ Muse notes that month-to-month semi growth flipped back into positive territory for the first time since June — but "all eyes remain on the trajectory for 4Q and outlook for 2013." Chip vendors’ current 4Q guidance is a decline of -1% to -8%, which would wrap up 2012 IC sales at around a -4% decline. "We continue to see a more modest recovery than what we had modeled at the outset of the year," he writes.

Tracking IC demand by application, Muse finds the automotive sector continuing to thin out — revenues up 4% Y/Y, vs. 11%/14%/19% in August/July/June, and unit shipments slowing to just 5% Y/Y vs. 22% in August — though ASPs are stabilizing (-1% Y/Y vs. -9% in August and -17% in July). The communications sector improved (11% Y/Y IC sales, 12% increase in unit shipments) as infrastructure spending seems to be rebounding. Computing continues to be "lackluster" with another -20% decline in revenues and -18% unit sales, though there was a M/M bump partly attributed to the Windows 8 launch. And the Consumer sector rebounded somewhat from a soft back-to-school season with 6% Y/Y sales and 10% higher unit shipments.

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