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Chipmakers, once in high demand, confront sudden challenges

A few months ago, makers of computer chips seemed on top of the world.

Customers could not get enough of the small slices of silicon, which act as the brains of computers and are needed in just about every device with an on-off switch. Demand was so strong — and U.S. dependence on a foreign manufacturer so worrying — that Democrats and Republicans agreed in July on a $52 billion subsidy package that included grants to build new chip factories in America.

U.S. chip makers such as Intel, Micron Technology, Texas Instruments and GlobalFoundries pledged huge expansions in domestic manufacturing, betting on a growing need for their products and the prospects of federal subsidies.

But lately, supplies of some semiconductors are piling up, which could spell good news for consumers but not for industry executives. Their bold investment plans are running into a sudden and unexpected slowdown in consumer demand for electronic gadgets, new U.S. restrictions on sales to customers in China, rising inflation and the unusual prospect of a simultaneous shortage of some chips and glut of others.

That has left chip makers, which had been looking ahead to immense demand and opportunity, suddenly grappling with immense challenges. Many of the companies now face complex questions about whether and when to boost production, amid uncertainty about how long the current sales slowdown may last. The New York Times

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