WSTS trims chip sales outlook for 2012, 2013

November 28, 2012 - Semiconductor sales in 2012 will decline about -3% in 2012, instead of the flat growth initially expected, but will bounce back to 4%-5% annual growth in 2013 and 2014, according to the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) in its updated semiannual forecast.

The WSTS latest numbers, produced at its Autumn 2012 Forecast Meeting in Kobe, Japan (Nov. 13-16), call for a -3% drop in chip sales in 2012 to roughly $290B, vs. the 0.4% flatness predicted earlier in the year. 2013 should see a return to positive growth but also less than previously thought, a 4.5% increase to $303.B vs. 7.2% growth in the spring forecast. Look for the same rate in 2014, roughly 5.2% to $318B. The WSTS blames these twin lowerings on "growing uncertainty of the world economy," including slower growth in China. (Industry watchers, including the Semiconductor Industry Association, which now goes along with the WSTS numbers) have been tracking chip sales to close the year with roughly a -4% decline.)

WSTS’ Autumn 2012 forecast, in US $B and % growth. (Source: WSTS)

By product category, discretes, analog, and microprocessors take the biggest hits (~6%) in the WSTS update for 2012, and the only segment with even slightly better performance is logic (0.2%). Discretes and analog also take a big hit in 2013 and 2014 in the new forecasts (-9% and 11% lower than the spring outlook). Other industry watchers have noted these former high-flying segments have lost momentum in the past year due to commoditization and global economic softness.

By region, no surprise that the Americas and Europe take the brunt of the WSTS downgrades in 2012, to -4.4% (from 3.2%) and -10.7% (from -3.5%), respectively. And instead of the ~6%-7% growth seen for all regions in 2013, the WSTS now projects roughly flat growth in Europe and around 3% growth in the Americas and Japan, citing caution over global economic uncertainty from European debt issues to the specter of the US’ "fiscal cliff." Global GDP growth is at recession-definition levels in 2012, though there are signs of life in the US (stronger housing demand and hiring) and China (accelerating factory output and retail sales). The WSTS does think that a healthier global economy will help all chip segments and regions achieve mid-single-digit growth in 2014.

Changes in WSTS’ Autumn 2012 vs. Spring 2012 forecasts. (Source: WSTS)

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