SANTA CLARA, Calif.--In another sign that the IC market is recovering, the worldwide chip-equipment book-to-bill reached 1.11 in November and the semiconductor ratio hit 1.18 last month, according to VLSI Research Inc. today (December 17, 2003.)
Worldwide fab-capacity utilization hit 98.8 percent in November, according to the Santa Clara-based research firm.
In comparison, the worldwide semiconductor equipment book-to-bill ratio reached 1.03 in October of 2003, which is flat from September, according to VLSI Research. The book-to-bill ratio for ICs was at 1.15 in October, up from 1.11 in September. And capacity utilization reached 96.4 percent last month, according to the firm (see November 19 story).
The equipment market is showing a number of positive signs. Worldwide bookings amounted to $3.009 billion, while billings were at $2.712 billion in November. Of the billings, $1.405 billion were for wafer processing equipment, $752 million for test and related Equipment, $206 million for assembly, and $348 million for service and spares, the report said.
"The chip industry is seeing a spike in demand brought about by a strong economy and consumers' growing thirst for anything electronics," according to VLSI Research. "Years of under investment have left the industry with little spare capacity. Front-end capacity utilization reached 98 percent in November, surpassing the peak in 2000."
This bodes well for the equipment market. "Chip makers are paying for delivery slots all the way out to 4Q04. They are even agreeing to pay for materials when they sign the build release. This is something that has not happened in well over a decade," according to VLSI Research.
"Unfortunately, this occurred so late in the year that it is not expected to boost equipment sales significantly in 2003. The impact will be fully felt in 2004, which could very well be a price-led upturn for the equipment industry," it said.
At the same time, VLSI Research on Tuesday raised its chip and semiconductor-equipment forecasts for 2004--by a wide margin (see December 16 story).