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Analyst: Chip recovery under way

Revenue from chip sales is expected to rise in the fourth quarter. Still, iSuppli also adds a good dose of caution to its report.

The chip recovery is under way, with quarterly sales forecast to increase year-over-year for the first time in 2009, according to a report from market researcher iSuppli on Tuesday.

Revenue from chip sales is expected to rise by 10.6 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2008. This would mark the first time this year that revenue has risen compared to the same period a year earlier, according to Dale Ford, senior vice president, market intelligence, for iSuppli.

"The seeds of the current recovery were sown in the second quarter," said Ford. At that time, manufacturers began to report positive book-to-bill ratios, indicating future revenue growth. This was followed by more sequential revenue growth in the third quarter, according to Ford.

Semiconductor inventories returned to more normal levels in the third quarter after chip suppliers shed stockpiles, he added.

Earlier this month, chip giant Intel said third-quarter revenue was down only 8 percent year-over-year, an improvement over the 15 percent and 26 percent year over year declines in the second and first quarters respectively. Intel also indicated that it expects future growth. "We're finished with the cutting phase of our efficiency effort and now in the growth phase of that efficiency effort," said Intel's chief financial officer Stacy Smith at that time.

Overall, it's been a tough year, however. Global semiconductor revenue is set to contract by 16.5 percent in 2009, following a 5.4 percent decrease in 2008.

And iSuppli has added a good dose of caution to its report. Though sequential quarterly increases in revenue will continue into 2010, sales growth will not be sufficient to lift semiconductor revenue back to pre-recessionary levels until the 2011-2012 time frame, according to Ford.

And there are troubling indicators such as the climbing U.S. unemployment rate, which reached 9.7 percent in August and is projected to exceed 10 percent at its peak, which will continue to constrain consumer spending, Ford said.