Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yes, it really is that bad

I just had a look at the latest equipment book-to-bill numbers, and they're pretty ugly. Both bookings and billings are below the levels reached in the depths of the dot-com meltdown, which was itself a historic downturn for the IC industry.

Worse, the ratio has not been above one since January 2007 (although it lingered in the upper 0.90s until May). The two years of the 2000-2002 downturn seemed like an eternity, and this one clearly isn't over yet.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that bookings seem to have stabilized, although at painfully low levels. I'm not going to call a bottom just yet, but I'm hearing hints of optimism rather than the unmitigated doom of a few months back.

The other good news is that the rise of consumer electronics in the last few years probably means a faster bounce off the bottom, at least for IC volume. It takes a lot less to get people to buy hundred-dollar gadgets than thousand-dollar computers. Of course the gadgets bring in less revenue, too.

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