Chip-making equipment sales continue to slide

Sales of semiconductor-manufacturing equipment, a barometer of future chip sales, continued to decline for North American-based manufacturers in the latest figures for October, according to data released by an industry association.

Worldwide orders for semiconductor equipment were valued at an average of US$651.1 million per month during the three months to October, Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) said in a statement Tuesday. In comparison, this figure is 78 percent below the $2.99 billion in bookings posted in October 2000, but 5 percent above the revised September 2001 level of $619.2 million, SEMI said.

SEMI is a trade association representing companies that supply manufacturing technologies to the world's chip makers. It publishes a monthly Express Report with figures that are actually an average over the previous three months.

The three-month average of worldwide billings in October 2001 was $916.2 million, 64 percent below the October 2000 billings level of $2.57 billion and 5 percent below the revised September 2001 level of $967.4 million, SEMI said.

SEMI also reported a book-to-bill ratio of 0.71 for October 2001 -- meaning that only $71 worth of new orders were taken for every $100 worth of products shipped. SEMI pointed to excess capacity and weak end-market demand as the reason for the soft numbers and warned that it saw no indication of any improvement in the figures in the short-term.

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