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Good news for the Research Triangle Park area’s growing semiconductor sector and high-tech businesses in general: First quarter chip sales soared 58 percent in the first quarter, compared to a year earlier.

Worldwide semiconductor sales jumped worldwide, indicating the tech sector recovery continues, the reported Monday.

The latest figures set a first-quarter record, showing how fast the industry has rebounded from the period one year ago, which was the low point of the recession for chip producers.

It was the highest sales level for any quarter since late 2007, the industry group said.

"While we expect that 2010 sales will continue to be strong, the year-on-year growth rate will moderate going forward, reflecting the industry recovery that began in the second half of 2009," said SIA President George Scalise.

“The current results reflect improved sales in a variety of market segments, including the enterprise sector where recovery has been slower than in the consumer sector,” he added. “Healthy economic growth in China and growing demand for PCs and cell phones in developing economies were major contributors to growth in the first quarter.”

Looking through the remainder of the year, Scalise said the association remains “cautiously optimistic that global sales will show double-digit growth in 2010.”

Average monthly sales were $23.1 billion, up 2.8 percent from last year’s fourth quarter.

“Global sales of semiconductors set a new high for the month of March and were second only to the record sales reported in November 2007,” Scalise explained. “Healthy demand from major end markets coupled with restocking to normal inventory levels contributed to strong first-quarter growth.”

Year-over-year growth was most pronounced in the Asia-Pacific region, where sales climbed 72 percent, and the Americas, where sales rose 48 percent. Sales increased 42 percent in Europe and 43 percent in Japan.

“Foundries and integrated device manufacturers are ramping production to bring supply into line with expected demand levels,” Scalise pointed out. “We do not expect to see near-term issues with either excess inventories or capacity due to strong unit demand in key end markets.

“Computing and communications, which together account for more than 60 percent of total demand for microchips, are seeing healthy unit growth. PC unit sales are projected to grow in the mid- to high-teens, and handset growth is expected to be in the high single-digit range,” he added.