U.S.-China trade dispute and lower growth in major applications, including smartphones, servers and PCs, is driving the global semiconductor market to its lowest growth

Is US-China trade dispute a major reason for worldwide semiconductor revenue to decline by 9.6% in 2019?

Worldwide semiconductor revenue is forecast to total $429 billion in 2019, a decline of 9.6% from $475 billion in 2018, according to business analyst Gartner Inc. This is down from the previous quarter’s forecast of -3.4%.

“The semiconductor market is being impacted by a number of factors. A weaker pricing environment for memory and some other chips types combined with the U.S.-China trade dispute and lower growth in major applications, including smartphones, servers and PCs, is driving the global semiconductor market to its lowest growth since 2009,” said Ben Lee, senior principal research analyst at Gartner. “Semiconductor product managers should review production and investment plans to protect themselves from this weaker market.”

A demand-driven oversupply in the DRAM market will push pricing down 42.1% in 2019 and the oversupply is expected to extend through the second quarter of 2020. The decline is due to signs of a slower demand recovery at the hyperscale vendors and the increasing inventory levels of DRAM vendors. This ends the longest period of undersupply seen in the DRAM industry.

The ongoing dispute between the U.S. and China is causing uncertainty over trade rates. U.S.-imposed restrictions on Chinese businesses are based on security concerns and will have a longer-term impact on semiconductor supply and demand. These combined issues will accelerate China’s domestic semiconductor production, as well as create local forks of technologies such as ARM processors. Some manufacturing will relocate outside China during the dispute and many companies will seek to diversify their manufacturing base to reduce any further disruption.

The global NAND market has been in oversupply since the first quarter of 2018 and is now more pronounced as the near-term demand for NAND is weaker than expected.

“We expect that high smartphone inventory and sluggish solid-state array demand will last for a few more quarters,” said Lee. “Given the aggressive price declines for NAND, it is possible to see a more balanced supply/demand outlook in 2020. However, looking further out is concerning given slowing demand drivers, such as PCs and smartphones, and more capacity as new fabs in China impact the market.”

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