Semiconductor-equipment orders held essentially steady in September, as the company's key book-to-bill ratio remained above parity for the second straight month.North American-based manufacturers of chip equipment posted $1.09 billion in orders in September, based on a three-month average basis, down slightly from $1.1 billion booked in August, according to a report issued by trade group Semiconductor Equipment & Material International. Bookings were 19% below the $1.35 billion in orders recorded in September 2004. The industry's book-to-bill ratio fell to 1.02 from 1.05 in August. A book-to-bill of 1.02 means that $102 worth of orders were received for every $100 of product billed (shipped) for the month. "The book-to-bill ratio is above parity for the second month sequentially, with bookings and billings remaining essentially unchanged from the prior three-month average period," said Stanley T. Myers, president and CEO of SEMI. "Chipmakers are currently maintaining conservative spending patterns although we see indications of improving capacity utilization levels."