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Gartner eyeing electronics recovery next year

The PC and cell phone sectors have bottomed out, according to the research firm, which sees a sustained recovery for most sectors throughout 2010.

The electronics industry is still hurting, but better times could be here before you know it.

Research firm Gartner says it has spotted a recovery already percolating for the sectors including PCs and mobile phones, with a sustained recovery pattern likely to take shape in 2010. What's holding back the optimism for a faster rebound this year, according to Gartner, is continuing uncertainty about the economy as a whole and, more specifically, about the effectiveness of government stimulus plans, especially when the stimulus runs out.

Gartner's forecast on the electronics industry was compiled for a report called "Signs of Improvement for End-User Electronics Recovery," published in late September.

"Almost all sectors of the electronic equipment market have now hit bottom and await signs of 'first growth' in comparison with the same quarter last year," Klaus Rinnen, managing vice president at Gartner's semiconductor manufacturing group, said in a statement. "The first signs of growth will be led by seasonal buying patterns in the PC market during the third quarter of 2009, although other major sectors will not begin to show first growth, year-on-year, until 2010."

Gartner has revised its forecasts for recovery in each of the electronic segments it tracks. Its latest findings:

PCs: After bottoming out in the first quarter of 2009, the PC sector should enjoy a sustainable recovery in the third quarter of 2010. Computer sales will continue to be constrained by slow growth in IT spending, but consumer demand has held up better than expected and is likely continue to rise. Gartner has revised its forecast for PC sales upward, anticipating good performance in the U.S. and China.

Cell phones: The mobile phone sector also hit a low in 2009's first quarter but should be the first area to show sustainable growth by the first quarter of next year. Thanks to the popularity of smartphones and to demand in emerging markets, especially China, Gartner expects mobile phone production to sink only 8 percent in 2009, 4 percentage points less than it predicted in May.

Consumer electronics: Though consumers have scooped up LCD TVs and Blu-ray players, overall sales in most areas of consumer electronics were flat or down throughout 2009. Gartner sees the market in a state of limbo right now, expecting little growth until the second quarter of next year. Beyond that, the segment is unlikely to return to pre-recession levels until the first quarter of 2011.

"Although the first signs of recovery are starting to appear for the electronics industry," Rinnen said in the statement, "the damage from the current industry recession will be felt for a long time."