Japan’s curbs on key semiconductor material exports to South Korea would not significantly boost the prices of memory chips in the short term, due to chipmakers’ high inventories, market researcher TrendForce Corp (集邦科技) said in a report yesterday.
Memorychip makers have seen chip prices plunging for the past three quarters due to oversupply and sluggish end product demand, TrendForce said.
The Japan-South Korea dispute led to hikes in the prices of DRAM modules, due to increasingly tight supply of key materials used in the manufacturing of semiconductors, smartphones and flat panels, the Taipei-based firm said.
However, “the possibility is slim that such disputes will trigger a short-term, structural reversal of supply and demand,” since Japan has only lengthened the export procedures for photoresist, hydrogen fluoride and etching gas to South Korea, but did not ban them altogether, the report said.
High inventories could serve as a buffer, TrendForce implied.
As DRAM suppliers generally have more than three months of chips in stock, prices for DRAM chips used in PCs, servers and handsets are likely to see an extended decline at the beginning of this quarter, TrendForce said.
“No signs of reversal are found as of present,” it said. “The possibility of a structural reversal of supply and demand in the DRAM market should be slim.”
On the NAND flash front, prices are to increase this month, as supply tightened amid Japan’s export controls and Toshiba Memory Corp’s production loss from a brief power outage last month, the report said.
However, the price increases would be short-lived, given that NAND flash chip suppliers usually keep two to three months of chips in their inventories, the report said.
In the long run, NAND flash memorychip makers face downward price pressure, TrendForce said.
This time was supposed to be different. The memorychip sector, famous for its boom-and-bust cycles, had changed its ways. A combination of more disciplined management and new markets for its products — including 5G technology and cloud services — would ensure that companies delivered more predictable earnings. Yet, less than a year after memory companies made such pronouncements, the US$160 billion industry is suffering one of its worst routs ever. There is a glut of the chips sitting in warehouses, customers are cutting orders and product prices have plunged. “The chip industry thought that suppliers were going to have better control,” said
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