Johnson said a period of
semiconductor inventory level reduction, which lowered production
levels, appears to be over. But overall market weakness is continuing to
depress utilization levels, Johnson said. Increased demand and lower
yields at advanced nodes is creating equipment shortages for high end
logic production tools, but not enough to bring overall utilization to
desired levels, he said.
"In the memory segment, some suppliers
are even cutting production in an attempt to shore up weak market
fundamentals," Johnson said.
Gartner said in July it expected worldwide wafer fab
equipment spending to total $33 billion in 2012, down 9 percent from $36.2 billion in 2011.
2013 fab equipment forecast differs substantially from a forecast
issued last month by fab tool vendor trade group SEMI. That forecast
calls for spending on front-end fab equipment—excluding test, assembly
and packaging gear—to increase 17 percent in 2013 to reach a new record
high of $42.7 billion.
SEMI's mid-year consensus forecast for
semiconductor equipment sales in 2012 is also more optimistic than
Gartner's revised forecast. The mid-year consensus forecast, issued in
July, predicts that equipment spending will decline about 3 percent in
Gartner predicts that tool spending by memory chip makers
will continue to be weak through 2012. The firm revised its forecast for
foundry capital spending downward for 2012 and 2013 due to early
improvements in 28-nm yield. But Gartner raised its capex estimate for
foundries in future years due to more aggressive development of 450-mm
wafers and extreme ultraviolet lithography.