By Doug Bartholomew Although it's not an infallible barometer, the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International's (SEMI) monthly book-to-bill ratio generally serves as an indicator of things to come in the computer business. And right now, it's cautiously pointing to a turnaround. Released May 16, the SEMI's book-to-bill ratio, a measure of dollar amount of new orders received versus dollar amount of product billed, has been on the upswing for five months straight. The April 2002 book-to-bill ratio was 1.20, which is considered fairly bullish. Even so, the actual dollar amount of billings for April, $822 million, was 50% below the level of bookings for the same month a year ago, which was $1.65 billion. "While the jump in April's numbers likely reflect an end-of-quarter uptick in bookings, the fact that we have seen bookings improve for five consecutive months is a promising sign that the market for semiconductor equipment is beginning to recover from the downturn of 2001," says Stanley Myers, president and CEO of SEMI, based in San Jose, Calif. "Recent announcements by leading foundries of increased capital spending plans for 2002 are another sign of a brightening market outlook." The SEMI book-to-bill is a ratio of three-month moving average bookings to three-month moving average billings for the North American semiconductor equipment industry.