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Semiconductor Sales Data Point to ‘Signs of Life,’ Analysts Say

Ryan Vlastelica

(Bloomberg) -- The latest data on semiconductor sales is pointing to stabilization in the industry, suggesting that months of weakness and tepid demand could be nearing an end, analysts said on Monday.

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, total monthly sales came in at $33 billion in May, up 7.1% from April. While the May data represented a year-over-year decline of 14.5%, it also represented a moderation from the 17.7% drop in April.

“While the industry is still working through a cycle, the y/y declines appear to be decelerating,” wrote Mitch Steves, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “Given that forecasts were cut during a period where sentiment was heavily negative, we think there is upside bias to the numbers expected for 2019/2020.”

The data comes at a time when analysts have been concerned about the prospects for the industry in the second half of the year, especially since the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index is within 7% of record levels. A number of companies, notably Broadcom Inc. and Micron Technology Inc., have issued cautious outlooks in recent weeks.

Morgan Stanley wrote that the data pointed to “some signs of life” after “an exceptionally weak April,” and noted that sales -- along with the product categories of micro, logic and memory chips -- came in ahead of its expectations. However, analyst Joseph Moore maintained his cautious view on the sector, seeing “very challenging industry conditions” despite the data.

The data was also above Citi’s estimate, according to analyst Christopher Danely, who raised his full-year semiconductor sales forecast to $413.3 billion from $408.2 billion. The outlook represents a full-year decline of 12%, compared with a previous view of down 13%.

The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index rose as much as 5% on Monday, though it last traded up 2% on the day. The day’s rally came as the U.S. and China declared a truce in their trade war over the weekend; President Donald Trump also said he would delay trade restrictions against Huawei Technologies Co., a major customer to a number of chipmakers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Vlastelica in New York at rvlastelica1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Catherine Larkin at clarkin4@bloomberg.net, Steven Fromm, Morwenna Coniam

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