Chip gear makers report rise in orders

North American chip gear makers are hopeful of double-digit growth in 2004, based on bookings in December of last year.

Orders for semiconductor equipment continued to be higher than shipments in December 2003, giving North American manufacturers hope for growth this year.

Chip gear manufacturers reported orders worth $1.1 billion in December, according to data Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) released Thursday. The book-to-bill ratio, which represents a comparison between the average value of new equipment orders received and the average billing for finished products, rose to 1.20 in North America.

The group uses a three-month average to calculate the monthly figures for shipments and orders. A book-to-bill ratio of 1.20 means that $120 worth of new orders were posted for every $100 of product billed for the month. The monthly ratio has been climbing steadily since July, when the group reported a book-to-bill comparison figure of 0.90.

The bookings figure for December 2003 is 19 percent above the revised November 2003 level of $923 million, and 33 percent higher than the $827 million in orders posted same period the previous year. The three-month average of global billings in December 2003 was $918 million, rising 5 percent from the revised November 2003 level of $876 million.

"The December data support the positive outlook for strong growth in semiconductor capital investment this year," Stanley Myers, SEMI's chief executive, said in a statement. "Analysts presenting at the SEMI Industry Strategy Symposium this month were in agreement that 2004 is shaping up to be a double-digit growth year for the global semiconductor equipment industry."