* April orders rise 3 pct sequentially
* April book-to-bill ratio 0.65
* April billings fall 11 pct sequentially
May 21 (Reuters) - North American manufacturers of equipment used to make semiconductors reported orders of $253 million in April, up 3 percent from the previous month, industry data released on Thursday showed.
The book-to-bill ratio was 0.65 in April, meaning that $65 worth of orders were received for every $100 of product shipped, Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International said in a preliminary report.
The ratio is watched as an indicator of the demand pipeline for the industry, as well as for hints about chip capacity and whether the semiconductor sector could be headed for a glut.
Orders in April declined 77 percent compared with a year ago, SEMI said. April billings were $389.9 million, 11 percent less than in March and 71 percent less than a year ago.
"Capital investment by chip makers remains limited and bookings for semiconductor manufacturing equipment from North America-based companies have been essentially flat at extraordinarily low levels for the past quarter," SEMI Chief Executive Stanley Myers said in a statement.
U.S. chip equipment makers include Applied Materials Inc (AMAT.O), the world's biggest, testing tools firm KLA Tencor Corp (KLAC.O), circuitry-etching tools company Lam Research Corp (LRCX.O) and Novellus Systems Inc NVLS.O, which specializes in preparing the surface of a silicon wafer before circuits are laid down.
The SEMI book-to-bill is a ratio of three-month moving averages of worldwide bookings and billings for North America-based chip-equipment makers.
The data contained in the report was compiled by David Powell Inc, an independent financial services firm, without audit, from data submitted directly by the participants.
Billings Bookings Book-to-Bill
(Three-month avg) November 2008 806.8 783.8 0.97 December 2008
672.4 579.1 0.86 January 2009
584.2 277.2 0.47 February 2009 525.5 258.4 0.49 March 2009 (final) 438.3
245.6 0.56 April 2009 (prelim) 389.9
253.0 0.65 # Billings and bookings figures are in millions of U.S. dollars. *Source: SEMI May 2009 (Reporting by Shrutika Verma in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza)