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Chip-equipment orders fall in November

North American-based semiconductor-equipment companies posted orders of $612.3 million in November, down 5 percent from $647.1 million in October, says an industry trade group.

Orders for chipmaking equipment slid in November after an October rally, a key trade group reported late Thursday.

According to preliminary numbers from Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), North American-based semiconductor-equipment companies posted orders of $612.3 million in November, down 5 percent from $647.1 million in October. Billings for November, meanwhile, came to $842.2 million, down 6 percent from October, and 65 percent below November 2000's $2.42 billion figure.

Nevertheless, the resulting book-to-bill ratio for November ticked up slightly to 0.73, according to SEMI.

The ratio, a three-month moving average, compares the number of new orders placed for chip-manufacturing equipment with the amount of new gear shipped to customers. For November, $73 worth of new orders were received for every $100 of products shipped during the month, resulting in the 0.73 ratio.

The November dip in orders shows the chip-equipment market is still in decline, because of slow demand for chips and resulting cutbacks in capital expenditures by chipmakers.

"North American suppliers of manufacturing equipment for the semiconductor industry continue to see orders drop on a monthly basis, reflecting the decline in global electronics production, excessive amount of existing manufacturing capacity and curtailed investment by the world's chipmakers," Stanley Myers, SEMI's CEO, said in a statement. "However, the rates of decline for both billings and orders have lessened in recent months compared to the steeper descent earlier in the year."

November's book-to-bill ratio was a tick above October's 0.72 figure and higher than September's 0.64 and August's 0.62, SEMI said. It was also significantly higher than April 2001's ratio of 0.42, the lowest in the last 10 years.