Conditions in the global market for analog semiconductors and transistors are stabilizing due to rising demand and slowing price erosion, though real industry recovery is still far away, according to iSuppli Corp.
“Analog semiconductor and transistor suppliers are reporting that demand now has returned after a virtual halt in new orders in the fourth quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009,” said Marijana Vukicevic, senior analyst for power management at iSuppli. “This has caused pricing to stop falling at alarming levels.”
The average worldwide contract price for analog-monolithic semiconductors will decline by 3.9% in the second quarter, compared to 7.8% in the first quarter and 4.6% in the fourth quarter of 2009. Prices in the third quarter are expected to rebound slightly, rising by 0.7%, as demand continues to rise in anticipation of the pre-Christmas build season.
Average pricing for transistors is set to decrease by 3.8% in the second quarter, a sharp reduction from a 9% decline in the first quarter and a 7.3% reduction in the fourth quarter. The rate of transistor price erosion will dwindle to 0.2% in the third quarter and to a mere 0.04% in the fourth quarter.
“Because transistors and analog-monolithic semiconductors are generic parts that can be used in all kinds of electronic products, sales of these devices can serve as a barometer of larger electronics industry trends,” Vukicevic said. “Thus, these events could be interpreted as a positive sign for the electronics industry as a whole. However, pricing trends for these parts also are influenced by factors within the transistor and analog-monolithic market.”
One major influence is the level of inventory, which swelled to excess in 2008. Despite the poor demand in the first quarter, the supply chain reduced its stockpiles significantly in the first quarter. The investment community regarded the inventory reductions as a positive signal because stockpiles will have to be increased again as demand begins to rise, boosting demand and stabilizing prices.
Compared to many other semiconductor products, analog-monolithic semiconductors and transistors cannot be reduced to rock-bottom levels. With demand visibility severely limited right now, most suppliers must maintain relatively high inventory levels to respond quickly to any increase in demand.
“While demand is rising, the analog-monolithic semiconductor and transistor industries still have a long way to go before their sales recover to the levels seen before the fourth quarter of 2008,” Vukicevic said. “Analog and discrete suppliers are reporting improvements in book-to-bill ratios, but the overall order visibility remains low—anywhere between two and three weeks depending on the customer and the end product.”
With analog and transistor revenue rising, utilization rates at fabs producing these products are increasing as well. Utilization rates for analog and transistor fabs in the first quarter were in the low 40% range. In the second quarter, utilization is expected to increase to the 60% level. Rising utilization is expected to contribute to stabilized prices and even an increase in analog-monolithic in the third quarter.
This type of pricing analysis, plus an executive summary of the market’s change and direction, is available every month to clients of iSuppli’s Component Price Tracker (CPT). For pricing analysis on more than 350 part descriptions, visit www.isuppli.com/catalog/L2_prtr.asp.