Shortages of some chips drag on even amid signs of industry rout

Lead times - the gap between when a semiconductor is ordered and when it is delivered - averaged 26.9 weeks in July. PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO (BLOOMBERG) - Chip delivery times are shrinking, but shortages are persisting in many areas, according to new research.

Lead times - the gap between when a semiconductor is ordered and when it is delivered - averaged 26.9 weeks in July, compared with a revised 27 weeks in June, according to research by Susquehanna Financial Group. It was the third consecutive month that lead times narrowed.

While that overall indicator improved, supply of power management parts and microcontrollers - particularly those used by automakers and industrial equipment manufacturers - remained tight, the research showed.

Lead times for power management chips, for example, increased to 32 weeks in July from 31.3 weeks in the prior month. Prices of some products are still going up.

“In terms of the broader industry, we still wait for inventory and over-ordering issues to subside,” Susquehanna analyst Christopher Rolland said on Thursday (Aug 11) in a research note.

Mr Rolland’s research indicates that the decline in demand in some areas of the industry - notably for components used in PCs and smartphones - is not yet translating into the end of industrywide shortages.

Overall lead times are still more than twice what they would be in a “healthy” market, he wrote.

Chip bottlenecks have hit companies from Cisco Systems to Ford Motor, costing billions of dollars in lost revenue because they cannot get enough semiconductors for their products. But the view of those buyers is in stark contrast to what some chipmakers have reported in the current earnings season.

Nvidia, Intel and others have indicated a steep drop in demand from PC makers. Micron Technology said it is also beginning to see slower purchasing of components by owners of the massive data centres that are the backbone of the Internet and corporate networks.

Highlighting declines in computers, desktop processor shipments dropped to their lowest level in nearly three decades in the second quarter, according to Mercury Research. Total processor shipments had experienced their largest year-on-year fall-off since about 1984, noted Mercury analyst Dean McCarron.

Intel was hit disproportionately hard. Rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), in contrast, made gains across the board.

“AMD gained share in the second quarter and set a new record high at 31.4 per cent,” Mr McCarron said on Thursday in a report. While the overall market for expensive server processors was down, AMD increased its sales and gained share for a 13th consecutive quarter, he wrote.

Investors have already decided that the chip industry has slid into one of its periodic downturns. The Philadelphia Stock Market Semiconductor Index is down 24 per cent this year.

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