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Manufacturing a semiconductor wafer. Photo: Alfredo Sosa/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

Global chip sales rose nearly 14% last year to a record $468.8 billion, according to new numbers from the Semiconductor Industry Association. However, growth slowed significantly in the second half as the industry enters what appears to be a period of slower growth.

Why it matters: Chips are at the heart of all manner of electronics, from phones and PCs to broader markets like cars and appliances. Plus, unlike the gear they end up in, a significant number of semiconductors are not only designed in the U.S. but also manufactured here.

  • Chip sales growth is seen slowing to just 2.6% this year, according to the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics organization.
  • "We may be moving into a cyclical period [where we are] experiencing slower growth," SIA CEO John Neuffer said in an interview. But he added that the industry's long-term outlook is "very strong" as more chips go into more products.

Slowing growth: Several factors are weighing on the chip business, beyond the fact that it is a cyclical industry that has boomed for the last couple of years. In particular, there are concerns that the U.S.-China trade dispute as well as a slowing domestic Chinese market for consumer electronics could be hurting business.

  • "We want this to get resolved," Neuffer said. "We want the tariffs to get lifted."
  • Ideally, he said, the issues would be resolved in a way that increases intellectual property protections, a key concern for the U.S. high tech community.

By the numbers:

  • Total chip unit shipments topped 1 trillion for the first time.
  • Memory was the largest and fastest growing type of semiconductor, with sales up 27.4% to $158 billion.
  • Sales in 2018 rose in every region, led by China, where sales were up 20% for the year.

Go deeper: Computer chips are still "Made in USA"

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

2 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.