NOR flash memory prices, which experienced a double-digit sequential drop in the first quarter of 2019, will continue to fall but at a slower pace in the second and third quarters, according to market sources.

The sources said that the price fall may slow to under 10% in the second quarter and narrow further to lower single-digit level in the third and fourth quarters along with gradual easing of oversupply.

When NOR flash prices will hit the bottom is still hard to predict for the moment, Macronix chairman MC Wu said, adding that it may come after the US and China sign a settlement pact to end their trade war.

Wu indicated that NOR flash is more expensive than NAND flash, but its quality is stable. Although some firms are trying to incorporate higher-quality NAND flash into ADAS (advanced driver assistance system) applications, NOR flash still sees long-term demand.

On another front, the prices for consumer NAND flash memory are expected to further fall 25% in 2019 after suffering sharp declines in 2018 amid serious oversupply. Among major international suppliers, SK Hynix has announced a 10% cut in NAND flash wafer production volume in 2019 after seeing its first-quarter operating income plunge 69% on year to KRW 1.4 trillion (US$1.21 billion), the worst profit performance since the third quarter of 2016.

At the moment, Samsung Semiconductor is reportedly striving to clear its NAND inventory with low prices, and SK Hynix is expected to kick off production of 96-layer 4D NAND to strengthen its position in the SSD market, both adding further downward pressure on NAND prices.

Meanwhile, the prices for SLC (single level cell) NAND flash memory products are also experiencing a double-digit sequential fall as a result of weakened demand by China clients, according to Macronix.

But market sources said that as Japan's Toshiba Memory is likely to transfer its SLC NAND capacity to support production of mainstream 3D NAND flash memory, the oversupply of SLC NAND may improve significantly in the near future.