Semiconductors will go from famine to feast

A global shortage of semiconductors has collided with an unprecedented surge in demand. But the chip industry has always been highly cyclical.

A global shortage of semiconductors is affecting everything from smartphone sales to car manufacturing. Disruption caused by Covid-19 has collided with an unprecedented surge in demand for electronics, says Wallace Witkowski for MarketWatch. Research firm IDC reports that PC sale volumes are expected to advance by 18% this year. Global shipments could hit 357.4 million computers, beating the record set in 2011. 

Car makers have been particularly badly hit by the shortages; many cancelled chip orders when the pandemic hit, only to be surprised by the strength of demand for new vehicles. The shortage means it’s a good time to be a chip maker. The PHLX Semiconductor Index has gained 92% in a year. Building a new manufacturing plant can take two years and costs several billion dollars, so analysts say the shortage is likely to persist at least into next year. 

But don’t buy into the boom, says Daniel Tenreiro for National Review Capital Matters. The chip industry has always been highly cyclical. Periodic shortages provoke new investment, which leads to excess supply and plunging prices. This time governments are also getting in on the act: the US, EU and China are all creating subsidies to ensure that they can have a sovereign supply of chips. In a few years we could have a glut of silicon.

Recommended

Why are energy prices going up so much?
Energy

Why are energy prices going up so much?

UK energy prices are going through the roof, with electricity the most expensive in Europe and gas at its highest for 13 years. Saloni Sardana explain…
16 Sep 2021
What really causes inflation? Here’s what prices since 1970 tell us
Inflation

What really causes inflation? Here’s what prices since 1970 tell us

As UK inflation hits 3.2%, Dominic Frisby compares the cost of living 50 years ago with that of today, and explains how debt drives prices higher.
15 Sep 2021
Should you defer your pension and stay in work?
Pensions

Should you defer your pension and stay in work?

The pros and cons of deferring your pension and staying in employment beyond 66 are finely balanced.
15 Sep 2021
I wish I knew what a marginal tax rate was, but I’m too embarrassed to ask
Too embarrassed to ask

I wish I knew what a marginal tax rate was, but I’m too embarrassed to ask

Your marginal tax rate is simply the tax rate you pay on each extra pound of income you earn. Here's how that works.
14 Sep 2021

Most Popular

Two shipping funds to buy for steady income
Investment trusts

Two shipping funds to buy for steady income

Returns from owning ships are volatile, but these two investment trusts are trying to make the sector less risky.
7 Sep 2021
Should investors be worried about stagflation?
US Economy

Should investors be worried about stagflation?

The latest US employment data has raised the ugly spectre of “stagflation” – weak growth and high inflation. John Stepek looks at what’s going on and …
6 Sep 2021
How you can profit from the power of the grey pound
Share tips

How you can profit from the power of the grey pound

Higher life expectancy and surging asset prices have proved a boon for the baby-boomer generation, which has accumulated vast wealth. Younger generati…
10 Sep 2021