Despite plunging prices for CPUs (central processing units), worldwide semiconductor sales rose 9.4 per cent from last year, reaching $58.9 billion for the second quarter.

The industry struggled as chip makers like Intel and AMD slashed prices on their chips, helping to drive the average price of a laptop down by 18 per cent compared to the second quarter of 2005, according to figures released on Thursday by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).

That global trend was mirrored in the US where the average price for retail notebook PCs dropped from $1,141 in the second quarter of 2005 to $938 a year later, according to Current Analysis.

The price slump was offset by a rise in the total number of PCs sold, SIA said. Vendors sold 54.9 million desktops, notebooks and servers during the second quarter, a rise of 11 per cent over last year, according to industry numbers compiled by Gartner.

Another saving grace for quarterly semiconductor sales was robust demand for mobile phones, SIA President George Scalise said in a release. Vendors sold 235 million mobile phones during the second quarter, and expect an increase of 4 per cent in the third quarter and 10 per cent in the fourth quarter. That would push the total number of phones sold in 2006 to nearly 1 billion, he said.

For June, the Asia Pacific region had the fastest rise in semiconductor sales, which increased 12.8 per cent year over year to $9.2 billion, accounting for nearly half of total industry revenues. Worldwide semiconductor sales were $19.6 billion for June.

The slowest growth happened in Europe, where sales rose only 1.4 per cent to $3.1 billion for the month.

The European market was dragged down by a sharp decline in sales of microprocessors, according to the report from the European Semiconductor Industry Association.