Electronics Production | October 01, 2008

Part 3: IC Insights lowers 2008 IC market forecast by 3 points

The market researcher IC Insight has lowered their IC market forecast - in their September Update of the McClean Report - by 3 points. Part 3 of 4.
Quarterly “Seasonality” in the IC industry - 25-year Averages
Just as the monthly IC market figures have a definitive pattern within a quarter, with the last month of the quarter being exceptionally strong, the sequential quarterly IC market growth rates during a calendar year also form a pattern (usually referred to as seasonality). The chart below depicts the average sequential quarterly IC market growth rates over the past 25 years (from 1984 through the first half of 2008).

As shown above, when averaging the quarterly IC market growth rate figures over the past 25 years the 2Q, 3Q, and 4Q increases are all very similar (ranging from 4.0–5.3%). Interestingly, the average sequential growth rate during the first quarter of the past 25 years has been negative (-1.2%). As discussed below, the average growth rates by quarter over the last 25 years change dramatically when categorized into “good” and “poor” average growth years (i.e., using 10% as the breakpoint between good and poor years).

In good years (e.g., 1984, 1986-1988, 1992-1995, 1999-2000, and 2003-2004), the second quarter of the year represented the highest sequential growth rate. This was somewhat of a surprise as the third quarter typically comes to mind first when thinking about the strongest seasonal quarter (as will be discussed later, the third quarter has become stronger over time). As shown, third and fourth quarter average growth rates slow from the second quarter peak but are usually still very healthy (even the first quarter sequential average growth rate of 3.1% in a good year is respectable).

In poor growth years (e.g., 1985, 1989-1991, 1996-1998, 2001-2002, and 2005-2008), it appears that the first half of the year typically takes the brunt of the slowdown. As shown, the second half of the poor average growth year is usually rebounding from the first half IC market “correction.” IC Insights believes that the sequential quarterly IC market growth rate forecast for 3Q/08 (9%) will exceed the historical pattern for poor years shown above, as it did in the second quarter. However, as was shown earlier, the 4Q08 IC market is forecast to be flat with the third quarter, which is less that the 2.8% historical average growth during a poor year. Moreover, IC Insights believes that the bulk of the IC market slowdown during 2009 is likely to once again take place in the first half of the year with quarterly market improvement beginning in the second half of the year and carrying over into 2010.

Changing Seasonal Patterns
The next chart shows the 25-year history of 3Q/2Q sequential IC market growth. As shown, the trend line has been on an upward slope, indicating that the IC market is becoming increasingly dependent (i.e., seasonal) upon growth in the third quarter of the year. With the shift of electronic systems system sales from businesses to the consumer over the past 25 years, it makes sense that IC market seasonality is moving more toward the second half of the year and the third quarter in particular.

It should be noted that the two biggest markets for ICs (i.e., PCs and cell phones) are both highly seasonal and now usually register noticeable second half of the year strength (a look at the cell phone market will be discussed later in this update). Moreover, when you add the strong consumer IC sales in the holiday season, the total IC market is likely to continue its recent pattern of strengthening third and fourth quarter seasonality.

As shown above, IC Insights expects the 3Q/2Q 2008 IC market to increase 9%. If 2001 is excluded; the past 10-year average for 3Q/2Q IC market growth is 9%. Although this year’s 3Q growth rate it is not expected to match the record high 15% 3Q/2Q growth rate registered last year and in 2003, a 9% 3Q/2Q IC market growth rate is not bad.

Direction Indicators
The 1Q/4Q IC market direction indicator (chart below) was described in detail in the January-published As shown, not including the wild fluctuations after the steep downturn years of 1986 and 2001, the 1Q/4Q direction indicator has proven to have a good correlation with annual market growth trends. In fact, the -7% 1Q/4Q indicator in 2008 plots exactly with IC Insights’ revised 4% IC market growth forecast for this year (i.e., a similar 2008 1Q/4Q change with 2007 should yield an annual market growth rate near the 2007 figure).

Does the increasingly seasonal 3Q/2Q change also serve as a good direction indicator for the annual IC market? From the plots in the below chart, it appears the answer is no!

Chart Source: IC Insight


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