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North American Plastics Machinery Shipments Rise Again

Injection molding and extrusion machine shipments rose by double digits in the fourth quarter of 2020, marking their third straight quarter of growth.

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Shipments of primary plastics machinery for injection molding and extrusion rose by double-digits in the fourth quarter, marking the third straight quarter of growth, according to data from the Plastics Industry Association’s (PLASTICS) Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES).

Participating companies reported a preliminary shipment value estimate of $376.8 million for the final quarter of 2020. That was 22.9% higher than the third quarter of 2020, which rose 15.8% compared to the second quarter. The strong finish to 2020 is also reflected in Plastics Technology’s Plastics Processing Index, which showed its highest mark since early 2019 in its December 2020 report.

Single- and twin-screw extruders rose 31.6% and 4.5%, respectively, in the final quarter of 2020 according to CES. Shipments of injection molding equipment climbed 23.1% from the previous quarter and were 21.2% above the fourth quarter of 2019.

In December there was a 1.1% drop in the value of shipments of plastics and rubber products on a year-over-year basis, a marked improvement over the 11.0% decrease experienced last April year-over-year due to the pandemic.

“The growth momentum in plastics end-markets that began in the second half of 2020 is expected to continue through 2021, which should sustain a steady demand for plastics materials and resin, products, machinery, and molds for plastics,” said Perc Pineda, PLASTICS’ chief economist, in a release.

Brighter Outlook

CES also conducts a quarterly survey of plastics machinery suppliers, which found that 96% expect conditions to either improve or hold steady compared to a year ago. That’s up substantially from the 76% that held that sentiment in the third quarter. In terms of future outlook, 86.0% expect market conditions to be steady-to-better, slightly lower than the 89.8% in the third-quarter survey.

Exports, Imports, Trade Gap Rise

Fourth quarter plastics machinery exports totaled $360.9 million—a 20.8% increase from the third quarter. Imports were also higher, rising by 16% to $875.5 million. That equated to a $514.6 million trade deficit, which was 12.9% larger than the previous quarter. Canada and Mexico remained the top export markets for U.S. equipment suppliers in the fourth quarter. The combined exports to the USMCA trade partners totaled $173.4 million—representing 48% of total U.S. plastics machinery exports in the fourth quarter.

Zhafir Zeres

Penn State Behrend takes delivery of a Zhafir Zeres injection molding machine from Absolute Haitian last July. Machine deliveries finished 2020 with three straight quarters of growth.

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