NAND, DRAM spot prices improve
Memory makers had reason to celebrate over the weekend, after spot pricing for both DRAM and NAND flash improved last week.
According to Gartner Inc analysis, both memory segments showed some pricing gains in the business week ending April 10.
In DRAM, spot pricing was mixed. Gartner reported this morning that mainstream parts saw pricing moving up again after the previous week's profit taking, while the older 512-Mb DDR2 devices saw ASPs (average selling prices) slipping. The market research company further noted that even-older 512-Mb DDR1 devices saw the strongest price increase, climbing almost 10% for low-end pricing.
According to Gartner's data, average spot pricing across all densities and technologies was up 2.8% compared with the previous week, standing at $1.20 on a 1-Gb equivalent basis.
The company noted that last week Micron Technology and Nanya Technology confirmed that they would not be part of Taiwan Memory Co (TMC), the Taiwanese-government-sponsored initiative to bring DRAM technology development and ownership to the island. That confirmation followed on statements from TMC the prior week that named Elpida Memory as a strategic technology partner.
Instead of working through TMC, Micron and Nanya plan to "pursue closer ties," Gartner said, including joint development. Last week also saw Micron announce a share and convertible notes offering that, if successful, could raise more than $500 million for the company.
"Micron's move to raise capital is probably optimistically based on the improving sentiment for the semiconductor and DRAM industries in the past few weeks," Andrew Norwood, a Gartner analyst, wrote in the company's Semiconductor DQ Monday Report. "Whatever the motivation, having increased cash balance can only be a good thing for Micron in such a turbulent financial time and in such a volatile industry."
Meanwhile, Gartner reported that NAND flash spot prices "soared as supply constraints on most densities in the spot market continued to drive prices higher" throughout the week ending April 10. According to the market research company, all densities saw higher prices and were led by the niche SLC 4-Gb part and closely followed by the 8-Gb MLC part.
Gartner said that the 8-Gb MLC density supply has been especially tight because of 8-inch fab closures. The supply pinch was also recently exacerbated by a rumor that Apple planned to secure 100 million units later this year. On those factors, Garter said that the weighted 1-GB average pricing climbed 17 cents to stand at $2.15, its highest level since early August 2008.
"While demand continues to be soft, it does appear to be more resilient than expected," Joseph Unsworth, a Gartner analyst, wrote in the same report. "As the spot market remains at depressed inventory levels, it will continue to be plagued by volatile prices as uncertainty remains pervasive in the market. NAND customers must try to avoid superficially high spot prices but be wary of long-term contract agreements, given the surge in pricing since early December 2008.
"Gartner maintains that prices will retreat, although it may take more time than initially expected for this to happen, and we now target the latter half of the second quarter, given current conditions," he continued. "One thing is certain: Pricing will continue to be highly volatile, given vendors' decisions to throttle back NAND production for the time being."