memory price


2022-01-04

Latest Assessment of Jan. 3 Earthquake in Taiwan Finds No Significant Impact on Local DRAM and Foundry Fabs, Says TrendForce

An earthquake that was around magnitude 6.0 on the Richter scale occurred off the east coast of Taiwan at 5:46PM local time on January 3, 2022. As most local DRAM and foundry fabs are located in the northern and central parts of the island, TrendForce’s latest investigations reveal no notable damages to the equipment from the fabs. Therefore, the production side is expected to continue normal operation, and the actual impact of the earthquake on the output of Taiwan’s DRAM and foundry industries will likely be limited. Taiwan’s memory fabs, including those operated by MTTW, Nanya, and other smaller semiconductor companies, collectively account for about 21% of the global DRAM production capacity. In the foundry industry, Taiwan’s fabs, including those operated by TSMC, UMC, Vanguard, PSMC, etc., together make up as much as 51% of the global production capacity.

Regarding the current state of the DRAM market, it is in midst of the conventional off-season. However, the recent easing of component gaps in the supply chain is generating some stock-up activities in different application segments and thus bolstering the overall demand. The headwinds of the off-season are not as strong as usual. Also, there are now concerns brewing in the wider memory market about the supply side being affected by the COVID-19 lockdown in the Chinese city of Xi’an. Consequently, memory spot prices have been registering daily hikes lately. It is worth noting that increases in DRAM spot prices have been more significant than the increases in NAND Flash spot prices. Regarding DRAM contract prices, TrendForce for now maintains its original forecast of QoQ drops in the 8-13% range for 1Q22. However, the latest earthquake that struck Taiwan could affect DRAM buyers’ behavior at any time. How contract prices will actually end up is something that requires further observation. As for DRAM spot trading, the memory spot market of Mainland China was still in midst of the year-end holiday on January 3. Hence, spot traders were passive for the most part. TrendForce will continue monitoring the spot market to see if the earthquake is going to be a positive driver going forward.

Turning to the current state of the foundry market, the chip demand related to some categories of end products has slowed down a bit recently because of seasonality. However, demand remains quite strong for chips that were previously in short supply, such as PMIC, Wi-Fi SoC, etc. Foundry fabs on the whole are still operating with a fully loaded capacity because demand continues to outstrip supply. The fabs of Taiwan-based foundries, including TSMC, UMC, PSMC, and Vanguard, are concentrated in Hsinchu, Taichung, and Tainan. In those places, an earthquake intensity scale of 3 or under was recorded. As such, no foundry fab in Taiwan has halted operation because of the earthquake, and all fabs are operating normally at the moment.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-12-30

Xi’an Lockdown Update, Samsung to Adjust NAND Flash Production Manpower and Capacity Utilization, Says TrendForce

Currently, the consequences of Xi’an’s lockdown on Samsung is weighted most heavily towards the difficulty of scheduling shifts for personnel, according to TrendForce’s investigations. Due to restrictions on movement and other lockdown measures, Samsung must continue operations with limited manpower. Samsung is currently making active adjustments to reduce impact on output and the local government expects a return to normalcy within one to two weeks. However, if the pandemic is not properly controlled, short-term impact on the production utilization rate of the local factory campus cannot be ruled out, resulting in a slight decline in output. As for raw materials required for production such as water and power, supply seems to remain sufficient, though Samsung is still confirming the specific degree of any impact.

Production has not been interrupted at Samsung’s Xi’an plant, the company’s remedy is reduced operational scale which may affect utilization rate  

Following up on TrendForce’s previous press release, Samsung’s two major NAND Flash fabs in Xi’an are still manufacturing without experiencing significant disruptions at this moment. However, with the local authority enforcing even stricter restrictions on the movements of people, Samsung has been compelled to perform some temporary operational adjustments to the two fabs. With respect to end-products, facilities in the Xi’an region are primarily responsible for the assembly of consumer electronics such as UFS and client SSDs, meaning changes in the Xi’an fabs’ operations will have a direct impact on the procurement activities of smartphone and notebook computer manufacturers. However, as Samsung’s inventory level is still relatively high, the company should be able to keep supplying these products to buyers with no issues in the short run, although the decline in the these products’ prices may moderate somewhat.

Judging by the performance of the NAND Flash spot market on December 29, TrendForce further indicates that most suppliers have now stopped giving price quotes for NAND Flash products after Samsung released an official statement on the Xi’an matter. Regarding the forecast of NAND Flash contract prices for 1Q22, TrendForce will continue to closely monitor responses by Samsung as the pandemic progresses. If the lockdown continues, the decline in NAND Flash contract prices may potentially see a further tapering.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-12-24

Samsung’s NAND Flash Production in Xi’an Remains Unaffected Amidst Lockdown, Says TrendForce

The Chinese city of Xi’an has been placed under lockdown due to a local outbreak of the Delta variant, although it remains uncertain as to when the lockdown will end, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Samsung operates two memory fabs in Xi’an, both of which are responsible for the manufacturing of high-layer count 3D NAND Flash products, and wafer inputs at the two fabs account for 42.5% of Samsung’s total NAND Flash production capacity and 15.3% of the global total. At the moment, the lockdown of the city is not expected to have a notable impact on these fabs.

Nevertheless, the municipal government has been authorized to enforce very severe restrictions on the movements of people and goods in and out of the city during this lockdown. While Samsung has finished arranging most of the memory product shipments for the period from the end of 2021 to middle of January next year, the company could face logistical issues related to the Xi’an lockdown in the near future and experience delays in shipments. Samsung’s clients, in turn, could have difficulties planning their procurement activities because deliveries of memory components are not in accordance with the originally set dates. Additionally, the same logistical issues could cause delays in the deliveries of production-related materials to Samsung’s fabs in Xi’an. However, the fabs have sufficient inventory to continue normal production over the next several months.

On the other hand, Xi’an is a strategically important location for both Samsung’s NAND Flash production and Micron’s memory packaging and testing operations. TrendForce’s investigations indicate that the lockdown will likewise have no impact on Micron’s packaging and testing operations, although potential issues with logistics still remain to be seen. In any case, while memory packaging and testing capacities in Xi’an account for a relatively low share of the company total, the lockdown may potentially affect spot prices of DRAM products in the short run.

Short-term DRAM and NAND Flash spot prices may bump up

In terms of pricing, the spot price of NAND Flash has not fluctuated significantly due to the lockdown event. Both buyers and sellers hold significant inventory in the current spot market. Recent trading volume has been weak and price fluctuations have been small. TrendForce will continue to observe subsequent reactions in the NAND Flash spot market and does not rule out the possibility of a short-term price bump due to the expected psychological impact triggered by the lockdown event.

In terms of NAND Flash contract pricing trends moving forward, since production is unaffected, TrendForce still maintains its original opinion, forecasting that average pricing in 1Q22 will fall by 10-15%. However, because the impact of logistics is difficult to predict, the purchasing side may have to increase orders from other suppliers, further fueling a bargain-seeking mentality. The possibility of seeing a flattening in the amplitude of contract price declines for various NAND Flash products in the first quarter of next year cannot be ruled out.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-12-13

DRAM ASP Expected to Decline by 8-13% QoQ in 1Q22 Owing to Seasonal Demand Downturn, Says TrendForce

Regarding the shipment of various end products in 4Q21, the quarterly shipment of notebook computers is expected to remain about the same as 3Q21 figures, as prior component gaps were partially resolved during the quarter, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. As such, since PC OEMs’ DRAM inventory has lowered by several weeks, TrendForce has also further reduced its forecast of DRAM price drops for 1Q22. Even so, the overall demand for DRAM will still enter a cyclical downturn in 1Q22, during which DRAM ASP will also maintain a downward trajectory with an 8-13% QoQ decline. Whether this price drop will subside going forward will depend on how well suppliers manage their inventory pressure and how DRAM purchasers anticipate further price changes.

Decline in PC DRAM prices will narrow somewhat as PC OEMs reduce inventory

Whereas demand for Chromebooks has noticeably slowed down, demand for consumer and commercial notebooks remains strong. Furthermore, certain components which were previously in shortage are starting to experience improved lead times. Hence, quarterly shipment of notebook computers for 4Q21 will likely surpass earlier projections. Looking ahead to 1Q22, not only will the demand side undergo a cyclical downturn, but the sufficiency ratio of PC DRAM will also surpass 3.0% following 4Q21’s high base period for comparison. These factors will result in DRAM prices undergoing a noticeable decline, although PC OEMs will carry a lower inventory of DRAM in 1Q22 compared with 11-13 weeks of inventory in the previous quarter, thereby helping to curb the price drop of PC DRAM products. On the other hand, as mobile DRAM prices begin to drop, certain DRAM suppliers have begun reallocating some of their production capacities from mobile DRAM to PC DRAM. As a result, PC DRAM bit supply will likely undergo a corresponding increase in the short run. In sum, although the above factors are able to provide some upside momentum that narrows the price drop of PC DRAM products, they are not enough to result in an upturn. In particular, DDR4 and DDR5 PC DRAM will experience QoQ declines of 5-10% and 3-8%, respectively, for 1Q22, although the latter product will not noticeably impact the overall PC DRAM ASP, as its penetration rate is still relatively low.

Server DRAM prices will decrease by about 8-13% QoQ due to slowdown in procurement activities

At the moment, CSPs and enterprise clients are carrying about 6-9 weeks and 8-10 weeks of server DRAM inventory, respectively. Although these levels represent a slight decline compared to the end of 3Q21, this decline will not substantially contribute to an increase in demand. Hence, server DRAM buyers will remain relatively conservative with regards to procurement activities before server DRAM prices reach a level that these buyers consider to be rock bottom. DRAM suppliers’ inventory of server DRAM, on the other hand, has been gradually rising in 1H21 owing to decreased demand. Furthermore, certain suppliers have ramped up their wafer input for server DRAM products, leading to an increased production. In addition, while both buyers and sellers have reached a consensus on the falling prices of server DRAM, supply chain-related component gap issues have become gradually resolved, meaning Tier 1 clients will lessen their server DRAM procurement in the upcoming off-season. As a result, suppliers will then be able to fulfill orders that were placed by Tier 2 clients but previously deferred because suppliers prioritized orders from Tier 1 clients. These Tier 2 client orders will provide some upside demand for server DRAM, which is a component that is in relative surplus compared to other components. TrendForce therefore expects server DRAM prices to decrease by 8-13% QoQ in 1Q22, during which server DRAM prices will experience the most severe declines compared to the other quarters in 2022.

Mobile DRAM prices will decline by about 8-13% QoQ in light of intensifying oversupply

Thanks to mobile DRAM suppliers’ aggressive sell-offs in 4Q21, smartphone brands still carry a high level of mobile DRAM inventory as of the end of 2021. Looking ahead to 1Q22, not only will the market welcome the arrival of the traditional off-season, but other issues with the supply of processor chip bundles and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will also result in a 10% QoQ drop in smartphone production for the quarter. Smartphone brands will become even more careful with respect to their procurement activities so as to avoid continually accumulating inventory. As smartphone brands revise down their production targets, market demand for mobile DRAM has therefore become weaker now than it was in 1H21, in turn exacerbating the oversupply situation, which is reflected in the persistently rising mobile DRAM inventory of DRAM suppliers. On the whole, the aforementioned issues of high inventory levels and oversupply situation will lead smartphone brands to further conservatize their production and procurement plans in 1Q22. Given that suppliers have suggested a sales strategy of negotiating for 4Q21 and 1Q22 prices collectively, and both buying and selling sides are confronted with inventory pressure, TrendForce thus forecasts an 8-13% QoQ decline in mobile DRAM prices for 1Q22.

Graphics DRAM prices will hold flat while demand improves and spot prices rises ahead of time

The application demand for graphics DRAM has been recovering noticeably in the recent period. Even so, it is worth pointing out that the graphics DRAM market is subject to a very high degree of fluctuations, and this situation is exacerbated by the introduction of the application demand from cryptocurrency mining in recent years. Because the values of cryptocurrencies can swing dramatically, GPU manufacturers such as NVIDIA and AMD have to constantly adjust their sales strategies and switch between bundling and de-bundling. In so doing, they are contributing to the rapid rise and fall of graphics DRAM demand. The graphics DRAM products that the three dominant suppliers are now producing belong to the GDDR6 series. The latest distribution of graphics DRAM output by chip type shows that suppliers are also gradually shifting their focus from 8Gb to 16Gb. Micron, in particular, is the most proactive in this transition. On the other hand, the mainstream graphics cards are still using 8Gb chips at this moment, so the demand for 8Gb graphics DRAM chips has actually increased. In addition, spot prices of both GDDR5 8Gb and GDDR6 8Gb chips have experienced huge price hikes. Due to this uptrend in spot prices, the difference between spot and contract prices is now negligible for graphics DRAM. Some spot transactions even reveal prices that are higher than contract prices. This latest development reflects the situation where buyers are more proactive in price negotiations. Prices of graphics DRAM products on the whole will be fairly constrained from declining further due to the rise in spot prices, the aforementioned demand turnaround, and Micron’s decision to scale back production for 8Gb chips. Taking these factors into account, TrendForce expects that the overall price trend will stay mostly flat.

DDR3 Consumer DRAM prices will drop by about 3-8% QoQ despite reduced supply

The demand for consumer (specialty) DRAM is expected to be relatively weak in 1Q22 due to the effect of the traditional off-season for consumer electronics. Also, demand will stay fairly depressed for TVs, which represent the leading source of in-home entertainment spending. This is because countries around the world will continue in their attempts to lift their pandemic-related restrictions. In addition to these factors, component gaps in the supply chain will still be a serious challenge for device manufacturers. As DRAM components are in excess supply relative to non-memory components, device manufacturers will be less willing to stock up on the former. Suppliers have been slow to scale back production for DDR3 products this year because prices of DDR3 products surged during the first half of the year. However, the downward pressure on prices has now become much more significant, so the two leading South Korean suppliers have taken the initiative to revise their product mix strategies. Hence, they will again transfer more of their mature wafer processing capacity from DDR3 products to CMOS image sensors or logic ICs. Turning to price trend, TrendForce points to the strong correlation between DDR4 consumer DRAM products and PC DRAM products. The latter were the first to experience a weakening of demand, and their prices have already made a downward turn in 4Q21. Looking ahead to 1Q22, contract prices of PC DRAM products will keep falling because of their significant difference with spot prices. This means that DDR4 consumer DRAM products will also suffer sliding prices for 1Q22 with QoQ declines reaching 5-10%. Looking at DDR3 consumer DRAM products, their prices will also drop even as their supply is shrinking. Contract prices of DDR3 2Gb chips are projected fall by 3-8% QoQ on average for 1Q22, whereas DDR3 4Gb chips are projected to register larger declines.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-11-04

Annual DRAM Revenue for 2022 Expected to Reach US$91.5 Billion, with Prices Likely to Rally in 2H22, Says TrendForce

Despite the forecasted 18.6% YoY growth in total DRAM bit supply next year, the global DRAM market is still expected to shift from a shortage situation to an oversupply, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. This shift can primarily be attributed to the fact that, not only are most buyers now carrying a relatively high level of DRAM inventory, but DRAM bit demand is also expected to increase by only 17.1% YoY in 2022. On the price front, the oversupply situation will result in a drop in DRAM ASP in 2022 but not a major decline in annual DRAM revenue, thanks to the oligopolistic nature of the DRAM industry. Annual DRAM revenue for 2022 is expected to reach US$91.54 billion, which represents a slight YoY increase of 0.3%.

Based on an analysis of DRAM sufficiency ratio (which refers to the surplus of supply in comparison with demand) for each quarter in 2022, TrendForce forecasts a 15% YoY decrease in DRAM ASP for 2022, with prices undergoing the more noticeable declines during the first half of the year. Heading into 2H22, however, owing to the rise in DDR5 penetration rate, as well as the arrival of peak seasonal demand, the decline in DRAM ASP will likely narrow. TrendForce does not rule out the possibility that DRAM ASP may even hold flat or undergo an increase in 2H22.

Annual NAND Flash revenue is expected to experience yet another increase next year by 7.4% YoY while numerous suppliers compete in higher-layer NAND Flash market segment

Turning to the NAND Flash market, TrendForce forecasts a 31.8% increase in total bit supply for 2022 and a 30.8% increase in total bit demand. Hence, NAND Flash ASP will likely experience a downtrend next year as a result of the oversupply situation. In addition, due to the perfect competition in the NAND Flash market, the decline in NAND Flash ASP next year will be more noticeable than the decline in DRAM ASP. However, NAND Flash suppliers continues to make progress in the stacking of NAND Flash layers, so the growth in NAND Flash bit supply next year will therefore remain above 30%. TrendForce thus expects NAND Flash revenue to have more room for growth and reach US$74.19 billion in 2022, a 7.4% YoY increase.

TrendForce’s forecast based on an analysis of NAND Flash sufficiency ratios for each quarter in 2022 similarly points to an 18.0% YoY decline in NAND Flash ASP next year. Much like DRAM, NAND Flash prices will undergo the more noticeable declines during 1H22. Arrival of peak seasonal demand in 2H22 will potentially result in a narrowing of price drops and a potential for quarterly prices to hold flat.

On the whole, the revenue performance of the DRAM industry and that of the NAND Flash industry over the years show that the annual total DRAM revenue is growing at more stable pace. Again, this has to do with the oligopolistic structure of the DRAM market. Since the DRAM market has a different competitive landscape, the fluctuations in the overall DRAM ASP have been relatively modest over the long run. However, the development of the DRAM manufacturing technology is approaching a physical bottleneck as process nodes shrink below the 20nm level. This means that the bit growth derived from the deployment of a more advanced process is becoming more and more limited over the years. On the other hand, not only are NAND Flash suppliers relatively more unstable in their capacity expansion plans compared to the DRAM industry, but further improvements in NAND Flash layer-stacking technology also remains feasible. Hence, the fluctuations in the overall NAND Flash ASP have been relatively more volatile over the long run. On account of these factors, the DRAM industry generally has smaller YoY revenue growth rates compared with the NAND Flash industry, although the DRAM industry continues to surpass the NAND Flash industry in terms of profitability.

Profitability of suppliers may be constrained if total revenue fails to keep pace with continuously rising CAPEX

Regarding the CAPEX (capital expenditures) of DRAM suppliers, there has been a gradual increase in these suppliers’ CAPEX to sales ratio in recent years, for two reasons. First, the development of the DRAM manufacturing technology is approaching a physical bottleneck. Die improvements have become more and more limited after process nodes have shrunk below the 20nm level. Micron’s 1alpha nm process can offer an almost 30% increase in bits per wafer, but the 1Xnm-to-1Ynm migrations and the subsequent 1Ynm-to-1Znm migrations that the major suppliers have undertaken in the recent period have yielded increases of no more than 15% in bits per wafer. Looking at future technological developments, Samsung and SK hynix have already integrated EUV lithography into their most advanced process technologies. However, orders for EUV lithography tools have a much longer lead time, and the costs of these tools are also high. Hence, the three dominant suppliers have allocated a large chunk of capital expenditure in advance to place orders for EUV lithography tools ahead of time.

Secondly, the oligopolistic structure of the DRAM market has also helped establish a regime where there is a very low chance of a supplier’s ASP dipping under its fully-loaded cost despite the recurrence of the cyclical price downturn. Moreover, DRAM suppliers have accumulated a substantial amount of profit from their products. In view of the difficulties in die shrinking, suppliers ranging from the three dominant suppliers to others with less market share (such as Nanya Tech and Winbond) have developed tangible plans for capacity expansions. These plans have, in turn, become the other main driver behind the ongoing increase in the CAPEX to sales ratio.

The CAPEX to sales ratio of NAND Flash suppliers have likewise risen substantially following the transition to 3D NAND technology in 2017. Notably, the average CAPEX to sales ratio fell within the 25-30% range prior to 2017, but it has since climbed to nearly 40% as of now. This growth can primarily be attributed to the fact that, as the number of 3D NAND layers increases, there is a corresponding increase in the lead times of NAND Flash products and in the degree of precision as well as difficulty involved in the etching process. While the mainstream layer count of NAND Flash products approaches 1YY layers, suppliers are currently planning to move forward with the development of products with 2XX layers, which place an ever-increasing demand on etch depth. The CAPEX of NAND Flash suppliers will continue to grow alongside increases in layer count and revenue.

TrendForce indicates that NAND Flash layer-stacking technology will continue to progress, meaning suppliers will continue to pursue the stacking of additional layers as a way to lower their manufacturing cost per GB. As such, the NAND Flash industry’s CAPEX will have additional potential for growth going forward, with a CAPEX to sales ratio of close to 40% or above. It should be noted, however, that if total NAND Flash revenue fails to keep pace with the growth in CAPEX in the next few years, NAND Flash suppliers’ CAPEX to sales ratio may potentially undergo an excessive increase, thereby constraining the profitability of suppliers.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

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