The global economic deceleration is taking its toll on the tech sector’s growth, with heavyweights like Intel and Texas Instruments signaling a downturn in their recent financial forecasts. This trend reflects a broader industry pattern of subdued order placements and shipments. TrendForce reports that the first quarter of 2024 will see a 7% quarterly reduction in MLCC shipments to 1.1103 trillion units.
TrendForce’s investigation into the impact of the recent strong earthquake in the Noto region of Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, reveals that several key semiconductor-related facilities are located within the affected area. This includes MLCC manufacturer TAIYO YUDEN, silicon wafer (raw wafer) producers Shin-Etsu and GlobalWafers, and fabs such as Toshiba and TPSCo (a joint venture between Tower and Nuvoton).
TrendForce reports that global demand for MLCCs is set to experience a period of slow growth from 2023 to 2024. With limited opportunities for industry growth, the demand for MLCCs in 2023 is estimated to be around 4.193 trillion units, with a modest annual growth rate of about 3%.
TrendForce reports that MLCC suppliers are also experiencing a resurgence, with their monthly average BB ratio—a key market indicator—rising from 0.84 in April to 0.91 in early July. In tandem, total shipment volume saw a remarkable 12% growth, climbing from 345 billion units in March to 389 billion units in June.
According to TrendForce’s recent analysis of the MLCC market, suppliers’ average book-to-bill (BB) ratio has risen slightly to 0.79 this February. The flow of orders has slowed down as seasonality affects the demand related to consumer electronics, data centers, and 5G network infrastructure. However, orders for automotive MLCCs may be able to grow in volume due to Tesla initiating a round of price cuts on its vehicles.
The latest research from global market intelligence firm TrendForce finds that the usual demand surge related to the year-end holiday season is not materializing during this second half of the year due to several factors. First, the data about the global economy continue to show a negative outlook, and the consumer electronics market is unable to shake off the constraining influence of high inflation and rising interest rates. Furthermore, at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party that was held this October, the leadership of the Chinese government made it clear that the strict zero-COVID policy will remain in force. Lastly, ODMs are having problems lowering their inventories, and the whole supply chain from the upstream to the downstream is still experiencing inventory-related issues as well. Hence, in view of the underwhelming peak season and ODMs’ cautious approach to stocking up, TrendForce estimates that the average BB (book-to-bill) ratio of MLCC suppliers will have slipped slightly to 0.81 in 4Q22.
With the course of the COVID-19 pandemic constantly changing, China is sticking with its “Dynamic Zero-COVID Policy” and has been slow to lift the lockdown on its cities that have been recently affected by the outbreaks of the disease. Hence, the manufacturing industries of the major Chinese cities are facing delays in the resumption of normal operation, and a production gap has emerged in 2Q22. For the electronics ODMs, this production gap will be difficult to bridge in 2H22. Additionally, the ongoing global inflation is keeping prices of goods at a very high level, and this trend will dampen the peak-season demand surge during the second half of the year. The effect of the inflationary pressure has been especially noticeable in the demand for consumer electronics such as smartphones, notebook computers, and tablet computers. This, in turn, is also impacting the MLCC market in terms of demand and inventory. Currently, the general inventory level has risen above 90 days for MLCCs of all sizes. Therefore, TrendForce forecasts that prices of consumer-spec MLCCs will fall further by 3-6% on average in 2H22.
Due to the explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic in China, Shanghai has adopted a rolling lockdown policy since March and Kunshan City, a major production hub for the electronics industry near Shanghai, has also felt the impact. According to TrendForce, limited manpower and logistics and suspended transportation options mean neighboring OEMs and ODMs can only rely on onsite inventory to barely meet the needs of production lines, further exacerbating component mismatches. Concurrently, a short-term surge in finished product shipments and demand for material replenishment after the various lockdowns are lifted may gridlock customs authorities, with delivery delays potentially lasting until the end of April before there is any chance for improvement.