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PLASTICS Reports Double-Digit Growth in Machinery Shipments in Third Quarter

Third quarter plastics shipments were up compared to the second quarter and on a year-over-year basis, rising 15.8% and 4.6%, respectively, as supplier sentiment and the trade deficit were also on the rise.


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The Plastics Industry Association’s (PLASTICS) Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES) reports that the preliminary estimate of shipments value from reporting companies totaled $306.7 million—15.8% higher than the second quarter, which itself was up 4.5% over the first quarter of the year.

Shipments of single- and twin-screw extruders grew 27.4% and 17.5%, respectively, in the third quarter, while injection molding machine deliveries jumped 15.0% compared to the second quarter and were 7.9% above the third quarter of last year.

In a press release, PLASTICS Chief Economist Perc Pineda noted that the two consecutive quarters of increases, including a double-digit jump in the third quarter, align with a “quicker-than-expected” recovery in end markets beyond healthcare and consumer essentials, which were buoyed by the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. He expects to see a third consecutive quarter of higher machinery shipments over the final three months of 2020.

“It appears that the second quarter was the trough of the business cycle, as the economy slowed due to the pandemic,” Pineda said. “Recent data point to an industry that’s moving towards the pre-COVID-19 level of activity.” Pineda noted that the industrial production index on plastics products manufacturing has risen for five consecutive months through September.

The Gardner Business Index for plastics processing, which is created by Gardner Intelligence, a division of Plastics Technology’s publisher, Gardner Business Media, reported that the index rose in each month of the third quarter, finishing at 52.9 in September. “Accelerating expansions in new orders and employment activity coupled with additional expansion in production kept the Index in growth territory through the end of the quarter,” Michael Guckes, chief economist and director of analytics for Gardner Intelligence, noted.

Plastics Industry Association Committee on Equipment Statistics

Shipments value has risen for two consecutive quarters, according to the Plastics Industry Association, Committee on Equipment Statistics.

More Optimistic Supplier Outlook

In response to its quarterly survey of plastics machinery suppliers, 76% expect conditions to either improve or hold steady compared to a year ago. That’s markedly higher than the 36% that felt similarly in the second quarter. As for the next 12 months, 89.8% expect market conditions to be steady-to-better, far higher than the 48% that expressed that sentiment in the previous quarter’s survey.

Exports—and Imports—On the Rise

Plastics machinery exports in the third quarter rose 3.4% over the previous quarter, totaling $298.8 million. Imports also rose, however, jumping 16.2% to $754.6 million, resulting in a $455.8 million trade deficit. That gap is 26.4% larger than the previous quarter. Canada and Mexico remained the top export markets for U.S. equipment suppliers in the third quarter. The combined exports to the USMCA trade partners totaled $124.5 million—representing 41.7% of total U.S. plastics machinery exports in the third quarter.