Little sign of Covid-19 in March global chip sales data

May 05, 2020 // By Peter Clarke
Little sign of Covid-19 in March global chip sales data
The three-month averaged count of chips sales in March grew with little sign of market impairment due to Covid-19, according to figures from the Semiconductor Industry Association.

The three-month average for March, which is a proxy for the first quarter of the year, was up 0.9 percent sequentially and up 6.9 percent year-on-year. A steep sequential fall in China's chip purchasing in February turned into fall of 0.2 percent in March. This runs against seasonality but suggests that action taken to stall assembly operations in China in February and March was largely compensated for by continued buying for stockpiling.

It is also notable that the Americas region's sales in March leaped ahead of the same period in 2019 with sales up 21.8 percent. This possibly shows the kind of growth the global market might have been experiencing if not for Covid-19. It may also reflect the data center and infrastructure focus of the US chip market, which might be expected to stand up well during the pandemic crisis.

It now appears the major impact from Covid-19 will come from a global economic recession that is likely to suppress demand for consumer electronics and automobiles in the months to come.

Worldwide sales of semiconductors totaled $104.6 billion during the first quarter of 2020. First-quarter sales decreased 3.6 percent compared to the previous quarter, which is in line with typical seasonal trends, and increased 6.9 percent compared to the first quarter of 2019.

Three-month averages sales for the month of March 2020 were $34.9 billion (a third of the 1Q20 figure), an increase of 0.9 percent compared to the previous month’s total and 6.9 percent more than sales from March 2019.

Three-month average of chip sales by geographic region for March and February 2020. Source: SIA/WSTS.

"First-quarter global semiconductor sales slipped somewhat compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, but monthly totals for March increased month-to-month and year-to-year, indicating the available sales data has not yet fully captured the impacts of the Covid-19 health crisis," said John Neuffer, CEO of SIA, in a statement. "Ongoing macroeconomic turmoil related to the pandemic has caused significant uncertainty for the global semiconductor market that is likely to persist in the months ahead."

Monthly data is given by the SIA as a three-month average although the source of the data, the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics organization (WSTS), tracks actual monthly data. The SIA and other regional semiconductor industry bodies opt to use averaged data because it evens out the actual data that typically shows troughs at the beginnings of quarters and peaks at the ends of quarters.

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February dip in China's chip market shows world what's coming

Global chip market starts year solid, faces economic threats

Chip market tries to draw line under weak 2019

SIA revises October chip market size

Chip market crawled forward in October

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