Semis Buck Up Book-to-Bill - TheStreet

Semiconductor-equipment manufacturers based in North America logged a slight increase in orders in February, snapping a three-month losing streak, but a key industry ratio remained at a 15-month low, according to new data on Thursday.

The book-to-bill ratio, which measures orders received against product shipped, was 0.78-to-1, based on preliminary data compiled by industry trade group

Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International

. For January the final ratio was also 0.78-to-1; for February the ratio was 1.15-to-1.

A ratio below 1.0 implies fewer orders than shipments, generally a bearish indicator of future sales. The ratio has been below 1.0 since September, and January marked the lowest reading since November 2003.

Orders were $1 billion in February compared with $986.4 million in January and $1.3 billion last February.

Equipment makers in North America shipped products valued at $1.31 billion, up from $1.26 billion in January and above the $1.1 billion shipped in February 2004. SEMI's order and shipment data are based on three-month moving averages.

The equipment industry has cooled in 2005 after global revenue growth of 67% in 2004.

Indications in the first few months of the year from major tool vendors such as

Applied Materials

(AMAT) - Get Report

,

Novellus Systems

(NVLS)

and

KLA-Tencor

(KLAC) - Get Report

are for moderated demand, especially during the first half of 2005.

Novellus in early March said that its

expected orders for the first quarter still reflected a sequential decline of 6% to 14%. However, the company did boost its sales and shipment targets, and lifted the low end of its earnings range.