SAN FRANCISCO—Global semiconductor revenue continued to surge in March, with the three-month moving average of sales increasing more than 18 percent year-over-year for the first time since October 2010, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) trade group.
Through the first three months of the year, the semiconductor industry is well ahead of its 2016 pace. First quarter chip sales totaled $92.6 billion, also an increase of 18.1 percent compared to the first quarter of 2016, the SIA said. Sequentially, first quarter sales were down slightly compared to the seasonally strong fourth quarter, according to the SIA.
The three-month average sales total for March, $30.9 billion, was also up 1.6 percent compared to February, according to the SIA.
"The 'supercharged' IC market is really being propelled by the DRAM and NAND flash markets, which were up 69 percent and 41 percent, respectively, year over year," said Bill McClean, president of market watcher IC Insights Inc., in an email exchange with EE Times. McClean referenced the actual semiconductor sales total for the first quarter, as opposed to the three-month moving average, which was up 20 percent compared with the first quarter of 2016.
"All major semiconductor product categories also experienced year-to-year growth, with memory products continuing to lead the way," said John Neuffer, SIA president and CEO, in a press statement.
According to McClean, first quarter sales growth excluding DRAM and NAND flash was just 9 percent. "While still a relatively strong number, that is less than half the 20 percent rate when including those markets," McClean said.
NEXT PAGE: March Sales Disappoint Wall Street
Though prices for memory chips are expected to soften in the second half of the year, McClean said he sees the potential for the semiconductor market to grow at a higher rate than the 11 percent growth for the year that IC Insights has forecast.
Neuffer noted that March sales were up sharply compared with last year, but more modestly compared to February.
In fact, at least one Wall Street analyst considered the sequentially increase between February and March to be a mild disappointment. Ross Seymore, a research analyst at Deutsche Bank, said in a research note circulated to customers that a "largely solid" first quarter "concluded with a muted March," reinforcing his concerns that more difficult upcoming year-over-year comparisons in coming months would have an adverse effect on the valuations of semiconductor firms.
Neuffer said year-over-year growth was in the double digits for all regions tracked by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics organization, which compiles sales data reported by the SIA and others from data provided by more than 50 semiconductor member companies. Sales increase by nearly 27 percent year-over-year in China and nearly 22 percent in the U.S., the SIA said.
Sequentially, all regions saw sales increase expect the Americas region, which decline by 0.5 percent compared with February, according to the SIA.
—Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.