Semiconductor equipment companies are showing increasing optimism about business prospects during the remainder of 1999, according to the July 1999 edition of the SEMI Capital Equipment Consensus Forecast, which was released last week by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) at SEMICON West 99. The survey respondents predict that the industry will grow 9% over 1998, reaching $23.8 billion in 1999. The SEMI Consensus Forecast includes input from 85 of the trade association's member companies in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Data was collected from surveys issued between May and June 1999 by the SEMI Market Statistic department. Respondents represent about 80% of the total sales volume for the global semiconductor equipment industry. The July edition of the biannual survey reveals that equipment companies are upgrading their outlook for the near- and long-term prospects for the industry. The 9% growth predicted for 1999 is up from the November 1998 survey, which only projected a 6.7% improvement for the year. Industry optimism carries into predictions for 2000 and 2001, with annual increases of 18.3% and 21.8% respectively. By product category, the Consensus Forecast results indicate sales of wafer process equipment should rise to $15.6 billion in 1999, 9.8% above the $14.2 billion in sales posted in 1998. Sales of assembly and packaging equipment are expected to increase to $1.7 billion, up 13.3% from $1.5 billion in sales in 1998. Test equipment sales should reach $4.6 billion, up 4.2% from $4.4 billion in 1998.