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Demand for semiconductor equipment jumped in April from the prior month as the emerging rebound in capital spending showed signs of staying power, according to a closely-watched industry report.

Bookings rose to $1.59 billion, up 16% from March, and more than double that of April 2003.

The report released late Thursday also said the book-to-bill ratio was 1.14 -- meaning the industry booked $114 worth of new orders for every $100 of products billed during the period -- up slightly from March, but otherwise the lowest since November. Billings rose to $1.4 billion, up 10% from March and 67% higher than a year ago.

Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International's monthly report is considered a key barometer of the chip industry's fortunes.

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Both bookings and billings have risen every month since December.

The strength in bookings for new semiconductor manufacturing equipment in early 2004 is "consistent with both announced capital spending plans and high capacity utilization levels reported by semiconductor manufacturers," the group said in a statement accompanying the data, which is based on three-month averages.