A slew of reasons, the China debacle on top.
Global semiconductor sales dropped 14.6% in April from April last year, to $32.1 billion, on a three-month moving average basis, the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization reported Tuesday afternoon. The three-month moving average in April has plunged 24% from the peak last October, thus continuing the deepest plunge in semiconductor sales since the Financial Crisis:
In dollar terms, semiconductor sales plunged by over $10 billion in April compared to the pace in October 2018, the largest peak-to-trough dollar-drop ever. During the Financial Crisis, chip sales dropped by $9 billion from peak to trough.
But in percentage terms, the current plunge doesn’t quite measure up: 24% versus the 39% collapse during the Financial Crisis and the 45% collapse during the long dotcom bust.
The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) said in its press release that sales, based on the data compiled by the WSTS, dropped in all major geographic regions in April (three-month moving averages compared to the same period last year):
- Americas: -29.5%
- Europe: -8.0%
- Japan: -10.9%
- China: -10.9%
- Asia Pacific/All Other: -10.7
And sales may not pick up anytime soon:
The SIA “endorses” the WSTS projections that chip sales for the full year 2019 will fall by 12% from the record levels of 2018, to $412 billion. In terms of regions, the SIA expects semi sales to fall across the board for the full year 2019:
- Americas: -23.6%
- Europe: -3.1%
- Japan: -9.7%
- China and other Asia Pacific: -9.6%
So maybe next year: The SIA expects that sales in 2020 will “bounce back somewhat, posting moderate growth of 5.4%,” from the much lower levels in 2019.
The huge spike and plunge that the semiconductor industry is facing currently is a result of several factors piling on top of each other.
The China debacle.
Potential tariffs and trade tensions between the US and China and potential export controls of tech products, such as semiconductors, to China has caused a stampede in 2018 to front-run these policies.
Just how prescient this stampede was has now been demonstrated by US efforts to clip the wings of Chinese tech and telecom giant Huawei Technologies, whose telecom infrastructure equipment (think 4-G and 5-G) and smartphones, are sold around the globe. They contain US semiconductors. And Huawei has been preparing for these eventualities.
Since the middle of 2018, Huawei has been stockpiling chips and other tech components. Bloomberg reported that according to its sources, it stockpiled enough components to keep its business running for at least three months after it gets cut off from US suppliers. This would give it some time to realign its supply chain.
The Nikkei, citing “multiple sources,” reported in May that Huawei has stockpiled six months’ to a year’s worth of “crucial components,” such as semiconductors, that had a higher risk of falling under export controls, to prepare for a worst-case scenario where its key suppliers would be barred from doing business with it. And it has stockpiles of less crucial components that would last for three months.
Huawei is not the only Chinese tech company that has been preparing for these scenarios. Acquiring these stockpiles means accelerated purchases. This is likely one of the reasons for the long spike in the chart above that peaked in October. And after these companies had acquired the stockpiles, chip sales began to drop.
Decline in global smartphone sales.
Global smartphone sales went from stagnation in 2018 into decline in Q1 2019. According to Gartner Inc., sales in Q1 fell 2.7% compared to the same period last year to 373 million units. Huawei was number two, behind Samsung, and both of them far ahead of Apple. iPhone sales in Q1 plunged 17.6% year-over-year. You see, Apple is now trying to sell services to brush off its dismal iPhone sales. These dynamics put a dent into semiconductor sales.
Decline in global PC and laptop shipments.
Global PC and laptop shipments in Q1 fell 4.6% year-over-year to 58.5 million units, according to Gartner. The Big Three vendors – Lenovo, HP, and Dell – were able to increase their shipments. And their market share rose to 61.5% in Q1, up from 56.9% a year earlier. The smaller kids on the block lost out. Apple’s shipments fell 2.5%. The remaining vendors were confronted with larger drops, ranging from -7.3% for Asus and -13.2% for Acer to -20.9% for all others.
The Crypto-mining collapse.
Demand for special rigs to mine cryptocurrencies collapsed in 2018, and this hit semiconductor makers, such as Nvidia, that make these specialized chips.
Data Center boom slows down. China’s fault again.
Data centers are part of the infrastructure of the “cloud.” This business had been on a relentless boom. And it may still be, but…. Intel caused its shares to swoon with its Q1 earnings report when it disclosed that chip sales of its data-center unit had fallen 6.3% from a year ago, due to weakness in China and large stockpiles among its customers. This came after a warning in January about slowing data center sales in Q4.
CEO Bob Swan said that Intel’s customers in China had “absolutely” stockpiled extra data center chips in 2018 due to the risks of tariffs or export controls. And those stockpiles are still around and need to be consumed.
This spike and plunge in semiconductor sales is a result of a confluence of factors. The global decline in demand for smartphones and PCs – both now mature markets – would have been enough to turn chip sales down. But the China trade issues, the frontrunning of tariffs and export controls, the stockpiling of chips, now topped off by actual tariffs and export controls did much of the rest.
Exports-at-all-costs for economic growth comes home to roost. Read... US Cleanest Dirty Shirt Among Manufacturing Giants: Germany at Crisis Level. China, Japan, South Korea Contract
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Our eBay sales are in the “terlet” right now that’s all I’ve got to say…
It feels like 2006, where people stopped being paid $50k a year to live in their houses, and the money for hobbies and projects dried up.
Fuuuu…. I might have to get hoppin’ on my sign business, not only am I bossing my boss around with regularity, I might have to bail him out.
ppl are phone saturated worldwide, smart phone glut
crypto mining has been dead since last spring 2018, so that’s 1+ year of stalled sales or high-end gpu
games is stalled, as the new hw is not that much better
hw has leveled off at 14nm, not many can fab 7nm to the next level
AI has leveled off as its clear the cameras are only 99% good, and same for self-driving car’s, where 99% good means in a population of 100 Million, that one million are sacrificed every year.
Probably the biggest here is the ‘mining’, I was buying a couple a week of $500 cards in 2016-2018 and then stopped building rigs, prior to that mining was just printing money. ( Now 1+ year later you still can’t make enough to pay for electricity wasted, recoup of hw costs is now impossible. )
In summary big investments are required for next GEN fabs, and the most profitable markets have gone extinct, last lets not forget that this 5G phone hw is a commodity business, and not insanely profitable like games or mining.
AI aka self-driving cars and spy-cameras is all a chinese commodity biz, not a driver for wall-st, but like everything this stuff was over-sold ( like AI in the 1980’s, went dormant 20+ years, because they failed to deliver )
Ironically, technology-wise, this is the first time I’m excited about upcoming processors in many years. AMD’s soon to be released lineup for the High End Desktop (HEDT) market is beastly, courtesy of architecture redesign and 7nm production by TSMC. I’m holding out until 2020 though, when Threadripper 4000 hopefully gets upped to at least 32 cores/64 threads without the memory bandwidth limitations that hamstring their current highest-core-count HEDT offering (2990WX). And core clocks are finally getting a nice boost too, after years stuck in the ~3.5ghz range.
Computing is really being democratized and empowering the individual at this point. It’s an exciting time. Increasingly one no longer needs access to supercomputers or the cloud to do meaningful work in scientific modeling, for example.
Computing is really being democratized and empowering the individual at this point.
You’re joking, right? The creepy tech giants are going all out to silence and censor anyone who doesn’t kow-tow to the oligarchy’s “globalism is our friend” narrative.
His comment was about raw hardware improvements, mine was in that vein as well. For example, today in some disciplines, one can write scientific computing software and live/work as an independent remote contractor, doing all of the computation in-house on a couple of personally-managed GPUs or workstations. That’s what I mean by empowerment.
I am against the all-seeing eye of sauron as well, probably more than you.
Gershon – you can buy a lot of computer for a couple’a hundred bux these days. Remember $1000+ computers? Pepperidge Fa, er, I do!
Nope – enslaving. More and more time spent in front of a screen getting fatter and fatter, and less healthy mentally too due to being disconnected from the human beings around you [physically] and from your natural environment. Constant exposure to marketing messages.
That’s not empowerment in any way, shape or form. It’s the polar opposite.
I Call it “techno-slavery”!
I like your point, and suppose PC users could build HFTs? I recall the day trading business in the 90s was based on centers with T3? connections. When big institutions gained the upper hand the day trader passed. The salient point about the information revolution is speed not content.
The last 6-7 laptops I bought were all used Lenovo’s with an I5 CPU, 8 GB RAM.
They cost about 200 EUR at Arrow Value Recovery for the newer models with the 2 year warranty and Windows 10. I slipped out the HDD and put fresh SSD’s in, because Faster & One doesn’t want to get nicked in customs with God Knows What on the “erased” parts of the disks – which “They” Will Search.
I did all this because The Environment, and 280 EUR is a decent enough price for a metal-cased business-type computer that will survive in the checked luggage, and because there is nothing exiting happening with the hardware at the moment – the older stuff is still plenty fast and capable for my job. (gaming sucks on laptops anyway)!!
We are just spoiled right, we have everything “computational” we need for quite a while. We simply won’t rush out and buy new stuff that is only marginally better just because it is new, not even Apple stuff.
Just one more industry that benefited in 2018 from the threat of tariffs and now facing the music this year and likely next year.
Trade war gets the blame but this slowdown was coming anyway. Was inevitable with the demise of crypto mining and the over-saturation of smart phones. Tariffs just accelerated the process.
Infineon will likely choke on its purchase of Cypress Semi (if the deal goes thru).
The death spiral of retail is also a contributor. All those cash registers are just computers with scanners and printers. That’s a lot of equipment that won’t be sold or maintained.
Google and Tesla better get a move-on with those self driving cars. Thats the only thing in sight that will pump up high end semiconductor demand enough to keep this ship afloat.
Ha, chips being dependent on don’t be evil and I am crazy is just a little ironic somehow.
Self driving won’t actually exist without insurance companies blessing. It’s all a waste of time in this litigous environment. Where I live rednecks will actually try and drive them off the road. We also hunt drones. :-)
An excellent comment, Drone delivery will probably never happen. People will simply shoot then out of the sky.
Hey Trump Crush!!!!
What have tou stockpiled on behalf of USA? Twitters are not acconutable ok?
Love the graphs & data.
My “eyeball” linear regression line (held a straight-edge up to the screen) seems to show material increases (stockpiling?) in 2017-2018/9, with the 24% decline looking somewhat like a reversion to mean (no denying enormous recent market distortion).
Reading about “stockpiling chips” was a surprise, This technology has about a 2-year shelf-life. It’s unclear how you stockpile just chips without all the other bits & pieces required to make functional gadgets. Depending on the amount & concentration of inventory, it’ll be interesting to watch that amortize off balance sheets (they have a 3-year accounting life at most).
I suppose they’d make neat little charms for the charm-bracelet crowd.
Year-old chips are better than no chips at all.
This technology has about a 2-year shelf-life
It is usually humidity absorption into the silicon die and corrosion of the tin-coating on the leads that ‘kills’ electronic components. The corrosion happens first and make it really hard to solder the component in reliably.
Space qualified and ‘military’ components often use gold-plating to get around that problem, they will keep for years. These components are expensive too.
You can seal ‘COTS’-type chips in an inert, dry, atmosphere and if the manufacturer used a good quality epoxy for the silicon encapsulation, they should be good for quite a while beyond 2 years.
Some military spares of this kind will come in sardine-type cans with a controlled atmosphere inside.
I should have been more explicit and said “…this technology has a 2-year FINANCIAL shelf life…”. Chips bought for 100 cents on the dollar are worth 50 cents 1 year later and 25 cents two years later.
From the looks of Wolf’s chart, it appears an extra (ie: consumption above the linear regression line) $10B+ of chips were sold in 2017-18; it’d be interesting to know who stockpiled (ie: bought more than the normal spares) how much of that “extra” $10B.
True. The 2 years just happens to be the ‘soldering shelf life’ of a lot of the normal components :).
In former times I have designed some military, space, naval and also avionics power electronics systems of 24/365 service time and the kind that will sit unused for decades until (maybe) ‘the balloon goes up’ so the ‘2 years’ triggered the memories on all the things we had to solve.
Old or surplus chips land up getting recycled into appliances, cars, and even toys. Don’t worry none will go to waste.
This economy is overdue for correction, #makehouses affordable again like 2009…
When I look at the chart, I see a correction, almost a reversion to the mean.
I agree. If the Chinese were stockpiling, that accounts for the bump, and now we are getting back to the average. Will it overcorrect to the negative? Maybe, but anybody in the tech hardware business will tell you that this is a very cyclical business to start with. Rather than bemoan a drop in demand, I look at this as a cycle driven sale on chip company stock prices. Get ‘em while they are cold, rather than most investors who will load up when demand and stock prices are up again. I speak with some authority, but I can tell you it took me the better part of 20 years to learn this lesson.
The global economy has only been growing due to freshly printed money, and China.
The central banks stop or slow printing and consumption falls.
The central banks will probably start printing again before the end of the year, unless they are prepared to allow a major correction.
what is major to you?
cyclical bull markets are not made to short…
Earnings has been driving the market last 3 years….
the economy is hot…still, call me when SAAR on vehicles is 12M….then we are hurting….
I’ve been hoping you’d touch on this. I’ve been “needing” a new laptop for some time. I bought one a couple months ago on what I thought was an “unreal” (LOW!) price. This week I bought another (different make/model) as it too was too good to pass up. I’ve decided I can use them for different things since I almost live on my laptop (like some people and their phones). I was watching a third laptop’s price (a bit flashier) and it fell the next day as I’m waiting for my shipment…I am so tempted!!!
P.S. Have North America and South America always been referred to as “The Americas” in business? I don’t care for this. I also don’t care for the disusing of “America” for our country the USA; “the United States” [media] is so vague and sterile—it’s America!
On that note, I know people in North Dakota and South Dakota, and North Carolina and South Carolina—-none of them refer to their locations as “The Dakotas” or “The Carolinas”—it’s always outsiders [media] who do!
You may have noticed the 2 continents between Europe/Africa and Asia are cleverly named North America and South America. You can blame this on Amerigo Vespucci, who determined around 1500 that there were, indeed, 2 new continents (at least to Europeans) that were not part of Asia.
Bottom line: so, yes, the whole enchilada is referred to as “the Americas”. If this is your only worry, then you are blessed.
I said “IN BUSINESS”. I was wondering why they’re lumped together since they’re relatively unrelated. There is no American Union like Europe. I was wondering how/why the markets could possibly be grouped together. Which is why I asked. Thanks for the passive-aggressive comment, though! /sarc
Depends on what you’re marketing/selling, but “the Americas” are much more homogeneous in terms of commerce & culture than Europe (the EU), Africa, and Asia.
North America (which includes Central America) is almost 60% of the “America’s” population; excluding Antarctica & Australia, South America is the least populated continent.
I remember back when I lived in the USA, there was just America and ROW (rest of world). Ah, the good ole days.
AMD is near all time highs.
AMD was near $5 not too long ago, and now close to $30.
NVDA down 49% since Sep. INTC down 25% in 5 weeks. SOX down 14% in five weeks.
Oh, and AMD’s revenue in the March quarter plunged 23% year-over-year.
And the company lost money in four of the past five years.
And its PE ratio is 118 (2018 was the lonesome year when it did make a little money).
And shares are down 13% from their 52-week high.
And I think investors are stupid paying this kind of price for the shares.
But to its credit, the company and its Wall Street backers are playing a good hype game.
AMD has me bewildered, as does “Modern Monetary Theory.”
How long can the Fed, kick the can down the road ?
Yes markets can remain irrational, longer than I can remain solvent.
Have the laws of Capitalism been repealed ?
Or is there something bigger going on behind the scenes ?
The thing going on behind the scenes is that AMD has the upper hand in microprocessors price/performance over Intel. Also, since Intel has been struggling with their new processes (fabs), it looks like AMD might hold the upper hand for a little while.
This is unusual and investors apparently think AMD might make money. Crazy thought! ;-)
I designed with AMD parts back in the 1970s, before the advent of microprocessors. They have always made good parts, state of the art, and with performance not available elsewhere. But to the best of my knowledge they have struggled to make money since their inception in 1969. They’ve been on the verge of bankruptcy at least twice that I’m aware of and when they decision to take on Intel in the PC microprocessor business has not been an easy one for them.
But they are still around. Kind of like Sears. You wonder if Tesla will still be limping along 50 years from now.
AMD has been on the verge of bankruptcy since I started in tech, in the 1980’s, and they are still here. I think of them as the cockroach of tech, it always manages to survive. I would BTFD.
I would say they are around because Intel needs “competition”. I think in fact Intel may have bailed AMD out once . . .
AMD stocks have been propelled by the company’s ties with Microsoft and Sony as the main hardware vendor to the Xbox One and Playstation 4 consoles.
Problem is that this has proven to be a miserable slog, not unlike that experienced by automotive contractors: margins are ridiculously thin and guaranteed prices mean AMD often ends up losing money on shipments.
Wall Street and other hype outlets have been pushing for years that consoles are on the brink of “taking over China” and once they do… brother, brother, brother, brother! Problem is Chinese consumers have snubbed these products and Chinese gamers prefer either conventional computers or highly capable smartphones.
Since the China story has died a painful and embarrassing death, the hype machine has now started to shift on the “next generation” of consoles. Stock market jockeys love hype pieces filled with technical details they don’t understand, such as processor speed and graphics details, and they love even more impossibly high sales figures. Just look at Netflix and Uber.
Their rationale is apparently that if AMD hasn’t lost enough money manufacturing processors and motherboards for Microsoft and Sony up to date, they’ll lose a whole lot more next time around. And if a company loses a lot of money to propel sales… brother, brother, brother!
I only know from building my own computers that in the last year or so AMD has put out PC processing chips that are very competitive in performance with Intel’s, while of course being cheaper than Intel.
Yes. This. People think AMD will even gain significant market share at the very high end, in servers.
AMD still is not competitive in GPUs, but the CPU market is bigger.
NYSE says this article is over the top in the doom and gloom space!
On June 4 2019 the NYSE closed well over 500 points in the green. Seems that Wall Street sure aint too concerned about the hardware in smartphones, cash registers or anywhere else for that matter.
You’re clueless: NYSE does NOT sell semiconductors. NVDA does, and it’s down 49% from last Sep.
Additionally, NYSE is not a picture of economy. Sales are down across the board, even online. Record number of announced store closing. Already more in 2019 than for full year of 2018; +6000 and counting.
“well over 500 points”. Yep, it was a 2% day.
2% days, whether up or down, are inherent to a bear market (or the start of one).
And June 4th started with gap ups by market makers (formerly specialists) en masse.
And (never start a sentence with an “and”) on June 3rd, the new of new 52 week NYSE lows was 216. Not the stuff dreams are made of
Focus on sustainability rather than one day abberations.
As more and more data migrates to the cloud, even for individuals, the semiconductor memory market will probably shrink. And this migration is in its infancy for individuals. Apple, for one, has begun making it take more & more effort to store your data on your devices rather than in their cloud. Since memory is a major component of the semi market this will effect the size significantly.
And what will the data be stored on in the cloud, if not the same types of semiconductors that it was previously stored on off the cloud?
Also, cloud data tends to end up on multiple devices, not just one. So the memory requirement actually increases.
Finally, it’s pretty clear that the cloud thing is being pushed on consumers, not driven by them. I wonder, why is that? If the tech titans were serious about enabling computer cloud, they’d have a personal cloud server for your home that would let you own your own data and share it among your devices In Your Own Space, rather than theirs. But no, they don’t sell that. Because they want to harvest you. Resist!
I just bought a crap ton of GOOG – so if everyone has to store data in the cloud going forward – I guessed right ??
Personally, I wouldn’t use Google for any business needs. Their support is zero. Microsoft has good support.
What’s your perspective on the crap-ton of US government anti-trust concerns? Not to mention, the EU is a little bit ahead on this issue.
I still use a Smartphone from over seven years as my travel cellphone, so yeah, I would say there might be a slowdown in those thing sales. In fact I only recently bought a cheap Smartphone… after four years of not buying a smartphone and only because WhatsApp will stop updating for really old versions of Android in December.
If Google made their App store only host apps that only work in the most recent versions of Android, in the name of “safety” a lot of people would replace their old smartphones.
Heck, they really should start to remove Apps and games that haven’t updated in three years or more.
The trade war will accelerate China’s move into making their own chips and chip designs
Intel stole (borrowed?) some good manufacturing ideas from AMD, specifically lithographic techniques for the shrinks.
I’m convinced the effort was well under way?
I only upgraded my Apple 4s because its reception in certain buildings (mainly the pub) was very poor. If my new phone last 8 years then yippee…if it last 10 years then yippee++
I dropped my Iphone 6 in the sink last week bought another as a back up.
Fortunately the one to take a swim is ok…for now. The back up cost
with a gauruntee 130.00. 1000 for a new phone? Apple can go pound sand.
I have a cheap phone protector (cost less then 10$ on Amazon) that has held my cracked screen together going on about 18 months. Without that thin plastic sheet my iPhone would be unusable. Highly recommended.
One more fall and my screen will be toast, but we’l see how long that takes.
The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index $SOX have built a Lazer,
between May 2013 and July 2014.
It’s a narrow channel tilting up, long & focused, osc in a narrow band. It look like a thin needle on the chart.
This Lazer beam is hot, very hot. SOX cannot be exposed inside, or they will be gone.
The monthly chart, linear, shows a bubble/ bubble down, above and
below the needle.
March 2018 was the first throwover. Apr 2019 was the largest.
In May, the semi are back inside and today they have to decide :
escape, either up or down, there is no time.
The SOX index is making a jumping Baboon signal. Yes, its true THERE is no time!!….Plus one half the SOX has been lost in the dryer
… and the other half is being taken to the cleaners!! Mistake?
P.S. Michael, I actually appreciate your technical analysis reports but it might help the others if the language was a tad less mystical.
Partial Translation for everyone else: The semiconductor index ($SOX on many charting platforms) had well-defined uptrends 2013 to mid 2014, followed by 18 months with lots of oscillation but little real price progress. Then in 2016 it began another major uptrend, which peaked in March 2018. I’m not sure what Michael was trying to say about the more recent action though, other than “it could go up or down but probably won’t stay here”.
Pah. I am just flipping between ‘Bear X3’ and ‘Bull X3’ certificates on the OMX-30 based on RSI.
‘The Market’ is going nowhere and there is nothing decent to buy at the moment. So we flip coins and wait for The Orange One to tweet something.
I’ll buy DB below 3 EUR though.
That is damn funny!
“But in percentage terms, the current plunge doesn’t quite measure up: 24% versus the 39% collapse during the Financial Crisis and the 45% collapse during the long dotcom bust…And sales may not pick up anytime soon…”
The TREND is DOWN. Where it will eventually go is unknowable.
In 1999 the Internet was an emerging technology. People were subscribing to newspapers. Digital cameras were very expensive. We did not have smart phones or WIFI. Unemployment was low. The worker participation rate was much higher. The Sunday Washington Post help wanted section took up almost half the paper. Most of the jobs were in software, networks, and computer tech. Companies got investment bankers to underwrite stock offerings. They had revenues, but no earnings. Index PE ratios soared. The NASDAQ started to go down in 2000. In early 2004 there was less than a page of help wanted tech jobs.
2019 is different.
Hey, where’s the AI?
Seriously Wolf, you need to send email notifications of new comments and replies.
More traffic should give you more beer money
Others do. You can too…
I agree, I really enjoy the comments and would come back more frequently to possibly engage in a dialog if there was a way to see new comments and replies to your old comments.
I really really really do NOT want ANY more email.
But I would appreciate some sort of color-coding or other indication (more obvious than the date marks) showing what I’ve already seen vs. what’s new since then, though. Something that doesn’t mess up the comment threading, but enables repeat visitors to avoid rereading most of the comments.
I turned it off some time ago (maybe before your time) because some people were abusing it, and it generated endless arguments about all kinds of stuff, often unrelated BS, that threatens to destroy a comment section for everyone else. I end up having to step in and block and delete this stuff, and that’s too much work. It only takes a few people to mess it up for everyone. So I won’t turn this function back on.