Semiconductor stocks have been whipsawed by trade concerns in recent months, but there's more to the story than just China.
At the Semicon West conference on Monday, researchers and analysts gathered to take stock of the industry and address a question on the minds of many tech investors: Will we see another era of strong growth in the semiconductor market anytime soon?
In short, yes: But it won't happen overnight, according to Mario Morales, VP of semiconductor research at IDC.
Morales projected that revenues in the semiconductor market will decline 10% in 2019, driven in large part by depressed prices in the memory segment. And next year, while likely to improve, won't bring an explosion of growth either.
"Expect a market recovery after 2020," he said. "I think it's going to take longer, more so for the memory companies...these guys do not shut down capacity."
Semiconductor stocks, including Nvidia (NVDA - Get Report) , Intel (INTC - Get Report) , Broadcom (AVGO - Get Report) and others, took a beating in May partly on trade worries, the U.S. ban on Huawei products and other macroeconomic factors. The dark sentiment surrounding semiconductor stocks was crystallized in a grim outlook by Broadcom in mid-June, in which CEO Hock Tan lowered its full-year outlook and warned investors not to expect a turnaround in 2019. Since then, however, Micron (MU - Get Report) has fueled some optimism by saying it expected a recovery in memory chip demand in the second half of the year.
Jim Handy, a semiconductor analyst with Objective Analysis, called the 2019 cycle the "worst downturn in semiconductor history," pinning the collapse largely on a glut of excess capital after 2017 and 2018 -- banner years in terms of industry profits -- weighing on prices.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, however -- and it'll come from an explosion of consumer and industrial devices that require on-premise computing and custom services.
According to IDC's research, 2020 will be another no-growth year. In 2021, however, the semiconductor market is projected to churn back to life at a rate of 5%, and grow from there, driven by a proliferation of "edge" devices with new computing demands -- everything from connected medical devices and wind turbines to self-driving vehicles and automated kiosks.
Another big trend likely to impact investors in semiconductor stocks over the next several quarters: More consolidation, despite an uncertain macroeconomic outlook.
Morales pointed out that M&A momentum has hardly slowed, as evidenced in recent big ticket deals such as Nvidia's $7 billion acquisition of Mellanox in March. Over the next few years, semiconductor firms that concentrate in industrial or automotive use cases are more likely to get hot, Morales added.
"Those are the guys that are going to be growing faster in the next few years, or the ones that are going to be acquired," he said.