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North American Plastics Machinery Shipments Contract in First Quarter

Impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, overall shipments decreased by nearly 20%, while extrusion business and exports expanded, according to the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS).


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Plastics Industry Association’s (PLASTICS) Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES) reported that the value of shipments from reporting companies in the first quarter totaled $254 million, down 19.6%, following a 7.7% increase in the fourth quarter of last year. Year over year, the value of shipments was 6.9% lower.

In a bright spot, single-screw extruders shipments rose by 15.5%, while shipments of twin-screw extruders were basically flat, declining by 0.8%. Injection molding equipment shipments’ value, however, fell 23.6% from the previous quarter and was off 11.8% from a year ago.

Survey Shows Concern

CES’ quarterly survey of machinery supplier sentiments showed wariness in the market, with only 18.5% of respondents expecting conditions to either improve or hold steady in the next quarter—far below the 69.4% that felt similarly in the fourth quarter last year. As for the next 12 months, 22.6% expect market conditions to be steady-to-better, down from 73.5% in the previous quarter’s survey.

Perc Pineda, chief economist at PLASTICS, noted in a release that overall demand for plastic goods remains strong, despite supplier sentiment. “The coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the manufacturing and service sectors of the economy, both impacted by the plastics industry,” Pineda said. “However, the demand for plastics remains fundamentally healthy, particularly in the medical and consumer essentials spaces, and the economic slowdown is transitory.”

Exports Rise, Deficit Shrinks Slightly

Plastics machinery exports in the first quarter rose 1.6% from the fourth quarter to $358.5 million. Imports grew slightly by 0.5% to $746.3 million, resulting in a trade deficit of $387.8 million—0.6% lower than the fourth quarter last year. The U.S. continues to rely on Mexico and Canada as its first and second largest plastics machinery export markets. Combined exports to the USMCA trade partners totaled $153.4 million, 42.8% of total U.S. plastics machinery exports.

Plastics Industry Association Committee on Equipment Statistics