Semiconductor capital spending rebound fails to materialize in 2015

According to IC Insights’ new 2016 edition of The McClean Report, total worldwide semiconductor industry capital spending is forecast to show low single-digit growth in 2016 after registering a 1% decline in 2015.  As discussed below, last year’s drop in semiconductor industry capital spending was a significant departure from historical patterns that go back more than 30 years.

Figure 1 shows the annual worldwide semiconductor industry capital spending changes from 1983-2015.  Over the past 33 years, there have been six periods when semiconductor industry capital spending declined by double-digits rates for one or two years (1985-1986, 1992, 1997-1998, 2001-2002, 2008-2009, and 2012-2013).  It is interesting to note that in every case except the 2012-2013 spending downturn, within two years after the period of decline in capital spending, a surge in spending of at least 45% occurred.  The second year increases in spending after the cutbacks were typically stronger than the first year after a downturn with the lone exception to this being the 2010 spending rebound after the 2008-2009 downturn.  This was because most semiconductor producers tend to act very conservatively coming out of a market slowdown and wait until they have logged about 4-6 quarters of good operating results before significantly increasing their capital spending again.

As shown in Figure 1, the streak of strong capital spending growth within two years after a spending cutback timeperiod ended in 2015, with capital spending registering a 1% decline.  IC Insights believes that this is yet another indication of a maturing semiconductor industry.

Figure 1

Figure 1

More detailed information on semiconductor industry capital spending, including 2016 capital spending forecasts by company, can be found in IC Insights’ flagship market research report, The McClean Report—A Complete Analysis and Forecast of the Integrated Circuit Industry. The new 478-page McClean Report provides IC market and technology trend forecasts from 2016 through 2020.


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