By Noel Randewich
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Chip manufacturing equipment maker Lam Research's <LRCX.O> chief executive said he has not seen any major deterioration in demand from customers concerned about a downturn in global technology spending.
"There's a little bit of an appearance of neutral to slightly negative in commentary from customers in the last couple of weeks, but frankly it changes every day and everybody has a different baseline," LAM Research CEO Martin Anstice told Reuters in an interview.
This week, chip gear maker Applied Materials <AMAT.O> slashed its full-year targets due to a sudden drop in orders in its biggest market towards the end of the current quarter, increasing fears of a drop in technology spending and hitting shares of Asian chip firms.
Investors often look to Lam Research, Applied Materials and other suppliers of semiconductor manufacturing equipment as early indicators for global microchip demand as they supply the machines that Intel <INTC.O>, Samsung Electronics <005930.KS> and other chipmakers need to expand capacity.
Applied Materials cut its outlook for global spending on wafer fabrication equipment this year to between $30 billion and $33 billion, down from a previous estimate of $32 billion to $35 billion.
That new estimate from Applied Materials is closer to Lam Research's 2012 forecast of $30 billion to $32 billion.
"We're all seeing the same thing. What we're saying is defined by the baselines we've previously communicated," Anstice said.
Last month, Lam Research finalized its $3.3 billion purchase of smaller rival Novellus Systems as manufacturers and chip-gear makers wrestle with cutthroat competition, waning PC sales growth and a weak economy.
A bright spot for Fremont, California-based Lam Research and its rivals has been a boom in smartphones and tablets, which has fed demand for cutting-edge chips made at contract manufacturers like Taiwan's TSMC <2330.TW>.
With demand outpacing expectations, mobile chipmaker Qualcomm <QCOM.O> has been scrambling to find additional manufacturing capacity at the advanced 28 nanometer technology node, looking to foundries besides TSMC.
Anstice estimated global 28 nm capacity would eventually grow to between 250,000 and 300,000 wafer starts per month from around 200,000 wafer starts per month forecast for the end of this year.
(Reporting By Noel Randewich; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)