The technology sector in the US is throwing out so many conflicting signals that it is becoming increasingly difficult to sort the trend line data from the anomalies and get a clear picture of whether the watchword is onward and upward to an incredible Christmas and on, or whether the whole thing is about to plunge into the buffers and take us all on to hell in a handbasket. Or is the market slowing slightly and simply pausing for breath – or is the multimedia home computer market completely saturated? Everyone has opinions, no-one knows, but one indicator decidedly on the side of the angels is the Semiconductor Industry Association’s book-to-bill ratio, which completely confounded analysts. It had been expected to continue the gentle slide seen in September, but instead, the reported figure for September turned out to be highly misleading and far from the reported 1.11, when all the data was in it had to be revised upwards to 1.15 – one of the biggest revisions ever, but then we are in uncharted territory now that the figures are seasonally adjusted for the first time this year. With 1.15 as a base, the only way in October was up, not down, so instead of the 1.08 or so forecast, the number came out at 1.18. New orders were up 4.4% at a record $4,900m in October, 55.7% higher than a year earlier. Ships were up 2.1%, also to a record, $4,150m, 37% up on 1994.