Chip sales down 2.7 percent in 2012

Semiconductor sales are down in line with gloomy forecasts, but things might not be as bad as they seem. Chip sales dipped $291.6 billion in 2012, down 2.7 percent from record sales of $299.5 billion in 2011.

However, the Semiconductor Industry Association believes the drop was not all that bad. Shipments still managed to beat most forecasts and things could have been even worse.

Some regions did better than others. Sales in the Americas increased 12 percent in Q4 2012 year-over-year, showing a possible recovery, although sales on a yearly level were down slightly.

Global sales in December were $24.7 billion, down three percent sequentially. The Asia-Pacific region did well, with 6.7 percent of growth in December, but Japan and Europe are down by 5.5 and 11.2 percent respectively.

“Despite substantial macroeconomic challenges, the global semiconductor industry outperformed forecasts and posted one of its highest yearly sales totals in 2012,” said SIA President Brian Toohey. “Recent momentum, led by strength in the Americas, has the industry well-positioned for a successful 2013.”

Toohey’s optimism echoes previous projections from research outfit IHS iSuppli, which also expects a rebound in the second and third quarter. However, semiconductor inventory is currently at record levels and sales in the current quarter are set to remain weak.

Evidence of the PC slump is all over the SIA report. Sales of MOS processors are down, along with memory chip sales. However, logic, optoelectornics and NAND sales were up, thanks to strong smartphone and tablet sales.

We’re not sure whether the semi market will hit the $300 billion milestone this year, but the odds at our betting shop around the corner are rather long.