Semiconductor equipment orders down 75%

US semiconductor equipment manufacturers posted $742 (£507m) in orders booked in August, down 75% from a year earlier, according...

US semiconductor equipment manufacturers posted $742 (£507m) in orders booked in August, down 75% from a year earlier, according to the industry group Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI).

Meanwhile, the manufacturers shipped $1.2bn worth of equipment in August, according to SEMI's preliminary figures for the month. This gave the companies a "book-to-bill" ratio of 0.61, meaning that $61 worth of new orders were received for every $100 of products shipped.

The SEMI figures are an average taken over three months. The August figures were produced by combining the June, July and August numbers and dividing by three to adjust for "spikes" in the monthly numbers. Order cancellations also figure in the numbers.

Although shipments have declined steadily since March, they appeared to flatten out in August, according to SEMI, remaining virtually unchanged between July and August.

Order figures have been more volatile, but in the six-month period ending in August, April had the fewest orders (with just over $700m). August had fewer orders than July, but more than June.

However, even prior to the terrorist attacks in the US, the industry was not reading a prompt recovery into the figures, said Michael Droeger, a spokesman for SEMI. "In general, people are cautious about looking at an increase in orders as a sign of recovery," Droeger said. "It appeared that we were hitting a bottom of some sort, but we think that this bottom might continue for a while."

The semiconductor industry now has to wait and see how the increased uncertainty from those attacks is going to affect orders, he said. "We have to see how it affects consumer purchases and business purchases - whether companies will increase orders or just stay with the curve," he said.

But the signs in the overall economy have not given the industry confidence, Droeger said. "Nobody is going out and buying things. The past week and a half of people holding back on major purchases has had an effect on the economy," he said.

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