U.S. Industrial Production rose 0.3% in December

Production at U.S. factories climbed in December (Chart 1) and while inflation remained static, indicating that the U.S. economy gained momentum in late 2012.

Chart 2 shows recent industrial production growth for key countries.

Foreign Direct Investment in China Down 3.7% in 2012 (Chart 3)

Total foreign direct investment in China fell 3.7% in 2012 to $111.72 billion reported China's Ministry of Commerce

Although this 2012 decline was partly cyclical, it also is the result of rising wages and other costs.

Source: China Ministry of Commerce

Apple Halved its Order with Suppliers of LCD panels for the iPhone 5 in the Current Quarter Due to Weak Demand

Apple Inc. has almost halved its order with suppliers of LCD panels for the iPhone 5 in the current quarter due to weak demand, the Nikkei reported.

Apple has asked suppliers Japan Display Inc., Sharp Corp and South Korean company LG Display Co Ltd, to cut supply, down from an initial plan to order about 65 million units in the quarter, the Japanese daily said.

Japan Display's plant in Nomi, Ishikawa Prefecture, where the iPhone maker has invested heavily, is expected to temporarily reduce output by 70% to 80% compared to the October to December period, the financial daily reported.

Sharp's dedicated facility for iPhone 5 LCD panels in Mie Prefecture will lower production in January and February by about 40% from the October to December quarter, when it was near full capacity, the daily said.

Source: www.reuters.com

Declining Worldwide PC Shipments in 4Q'12 Signal Structural Shift of PC Market (Charts 4-8)

Worldwide PC shipments totaled 90.3 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012; a 4.9% decline from the fourth quarter of 2011, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. Analysts said the PC industry's problems point to something beyond a weak economy.

"Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by 'cannibalizing' PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "Whereas as once we imagined a world in which individual users would have both a PC and a tablet as personal devices, we increasingly suspect that most individuals will shift consumption activity to a personal tablet, and perform creative and administrative tasks on a shared PC. There will be some individuals who retain both, but we believe they will be exception and not the norm. Therefore, we hypothesize that buyers will not replace secondary PCs in the household, instead allowing them to age out and shifting consumption to a tablet."

"This transformation was triggered by the availability of compelling low-cost tablets in 2012, and will continue until the installed base of PCs declines to accommodate tablets as the primary consumption device," Ms. Kitagawa said. "On the positive side for vendors, the disenfranchised PCs are those with lighter configurations, which mean that we should see an increase in PC average selling prices (ASPs) as users replace machines used for richer applications, rather than for consumption."

During the holiday season, consumers no longer viewed PCs as the number one gift item. Given a burgeoning variety of increasingly more attractive devices and services, consumers directed their attention elsewhere. Analysts said there was uptake of very low priced notebooks as a part of mega holiday deals, but this uptake did little to boost holiday PC sales.

The launch of Microsoft's Windows 8 did not have a significant impact on PC shipments in the fourth quarter. Analysts said some PC vendors offered somewhat lackluster form factors in their Windows 8 offerings and missed the excitement of touch. New products are coming to market, and this could drive churn within the installed base.

Source: www.gartner.com

Global Tablet Shipments to Exceed 170-180 Million Units in 2013

Global sales of tablets are expected to top 170-180 million in 2013 with 7-inch models likely to enjoy higher growth momentum, according to industry sources, citing data released by market research firms. Global tablet shipments were estimated at around 130 million units in 2012.

Tablets set on iOS will take up a majority share in the 9-11-inch segment in 2013, while Android-based models will prevail in the 7-inch sector although sales of iPad mini are expected to grow substantially in the year, said the sources.

Shipments of 9-inch tablets grew 35% to 73.4 million units in 2012, accounting for 59% global tablet shipments, according to data compiled by IHS iSuppli. Meanwhile, shipments of 7-inch models nearly doubled to 41.1 million units for a 32% share during the same period, the same data showed.

IDC also has indicated that sales of tablets in sizes ranging from 7- to 8-inch are expected to account for over 60% of total tablet shipments in 2013 compared to 33% in 2012 due to price advantages.

Shipments of 7-inch tablets by Google and Amazon are likely to reach 10 million units, or even higher, each in 2013, while Acer's recently released new 7-inch model, the B1-A71, with a starting price of less than $150, may also make some gains, the sources noted.

Samsung Electronics also aims to double its tablet shipments in 2013, and the industry is expecting Samsung's total shipments to reach over 30 million units in the year.

Source: www.digitimes.com and www.iSuppli.com  

Worldwide "Phablet" Shipments Forecast to increase 136% from 25.6 Million in 2012 to 60.4 Million Units in 2013

The phablet (phone and tablet combination) is a smartphone with a display size 5-inch or bigger, according to research firm IHS iSuppli. Shipments of phablets in 2013 are forecast by the firm to reach 60.4 million units, up 136% from 25.6 million in 2012.

"The move to offer larger-size display smartphones reflects the efforts of both device and panel makers to differentiate their products," said Vinita Jakhanwal, director of small- to medium-size displays at IHS. "With consumers demanding more lifelike viewing experiences, the trend to offer such devices makes perfect sense, especially considering the increase in rich content that is being made available on smartphones."

Expansion in capacity related to LTPS LCD, as well as the resulting reduction in prices for large-size, high-resolution smartphone displays, is expected to enable double-digit-rate expansion for shipments of 5-inch and above size smartphones over the next few years. In 2016, global phablet shipments are set to reach 146.0 million units noted IHS.

Source: www.digitimes.com and www.iSuppli.com  

DRAM Contract Prices Soar in 1H January

Contract prices for DRAM have risen about 10% in the first half of January, with 4GB modules quoted at as high as NT$17.50, according to DRAMeXchange.

Early January contract quotes for 2GB and 4GB DDR3 modules averaged US$9.75 and US$17.25, respectively, up 8.3% and 9.5%, DRAMeXchange disclosed. Average prices for 2Gb chips came to US$0.92 during the period, rising 10.8%.

Japan- and Taiwan-based DRAM makers continue to cut back their production of PC DRAM, while Korea-based vendors shift more PC DRAM capacity to non-PC memory chips, industry sources revealed. With the overall output slowing down, prices for commodity memory have gone up recently, the sources said.

Supply-side factors will continue to boost prices for PC DRAM until early February, the sources predicted. And if demand picks up, prices are expected to stage a solid rally, the sources indicated.

At the spot market, prices for 2Gb DDR3 chips have rebounded to US$1.20-1.30 recently, the sources observed.

Source: www.digitimes.com

Worldwide PC Microprocessor Revenues to Rise 1.6% y/y to $40.7 billion in 2013

Unit shipments of PC microprocessors to rise 3.2%, with most of the growth coming in the second half of the year.

Worldwide revenues for microprocessors designed for mobile PCs, desktop PCs, and PC servers will grow 1.6% to $40.7 billion in 2013 according to International Data Corporation (IDC). The IDC report, Worldwide PC Microprocessor 2012-2016 Forecast, also forecasts that worldwide unit shipments for PC microprocessors will grow 3.2% to nearly 384 million units in 2013.

"Economic and technological inhibitors that took the PC microprocessor revenue down about 2.4% in 2012 will continue through the first half of 2013," said Shane Rau, vice president for PC and server semiconductor and enabling technologies research at IDC. "Macroeconomic uncertainty has forced OEM and IT customers to reduce orders and focus on execution, and reduce expectations after the launch of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system in late October. Delays in PC purchases caused by Windows 8 and the encroachment of media tablets on low-end PCs have further cut into PC microprocessor demand growth."

Source: www.idc.com

Walt D. Custer

Walt Custer

Walt Custer is an industry analyst focused on the global electronics industry. Prior to forming Custer Consulting Group he was Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Morton Electronic Materials, a global supplier of specialty chemicals and process equipment for the PCB industry.

Custer has been a member of the IPC trade organization since 1975 where he received both the President's and the Raymond E. Pritchard Hall of Fame Awards. He is currently a member of the IPC Executive Market & Technology Steering Committee. Custer is also a Director of the EIPC European PCB trade organization.

He authors regular “Market Outlook” columns for Global SMT & Packaging magazine, the Journal of the HKPCA and the TTI MarketEYE website.

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