World semiconductor sales in February were sharply higher than a year ago, but almost flat compared with January's level.

The Semiconductor Industry Association Friday said total sales hit $15.58 billion in February, up 30.8 from the year-ago period, but just 0.2% higher than the previous month.

"The strong year-on-year growth of more than 30% reflects the steady improvement in business conditions, a trend we expect will continue throughout 2004," the trade group said in its monthly report. "The modest sequential growth in worldwide semiconductor sales reported for February is consistent with normal cyclical patterns."

In mid-March, Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International's monthly report said demand for semiconductor equipment in February was the highest in three years as manufacturers posted $1.31 billion in global orders during the month. The book-to-bill ratio was 1.14.

The SIA said sales slipped in both the U.S. and Japan, but rose in all the other regions surveyed in February.

Though sales in the wireless communications and consumer electronics sectors were flat, following double-digit growth at the end of the last year, the SIA said they would "exhibit renewed momentum as the year progresses."

Shipments trailed consumption in February. Because of that, the SIA does "not expect inventory corrections will be a drag on chip sales going forward."

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