It was another forgettable month for the chip equipment makers.

After a historically weak April and May, the ratio of new chip equipment orders to shipments improved in June, but the size of those shipments and orders declined yet again.

The so-called book-to-bill ratio was 0.54, meaning that $54 worth of new orders were received for every $100 of product shipped, the

Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International

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said Monday. That's up from 0.48 in May and 0.44 in April, but still lower than March's ratio of .59. The ratio is slightly better than Credit Suisse First Boston's estimate of a ratio of 0.48 to 0.52.

Meanwhile, the industry-wide decline in semiconductor spending continued to pressure new equipment orders, which fell about 1% to $705 million in June from $714 million in May. Shipments dropped off 12% to $1.31 billion from $1.49 billion.

SEMI said that some equipment categories are improving, which could indicate that the industry is nearing a trough in the orders cycle. But it stopped short of calling a turnaround.

"Based on comments regarding the lack of forward visibility made by participants last week at Semicon West, however, we hesitate to declare a reversal in order trends just yet," Elizabeth Schumann, director of industry research and statistics, said. (Semicon West is an annual semiconductor industry conference sponsored by SEMI.)

Indeed, CS First Boston said in a research note Monday that it believes that the industry is still 15% to 25% from the bottom.