Pandemic pauses North American plastics machinery shipments during first quarter
But a new report by the Plastics Industry Association does show increases in some areas.
The shipments of primary plastics machinery (injection molding and extrusion) in North America decreased in the first quarter of 2020, according to the statistics compiled and reported by the Plastics Industry Association’s Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES).
The preliminary estimate of shipments value from reporting companies in the first quarter totalled US$254 million, 19.6% decrease, following a 7.7% increase in the fourth quarter of last year. The value of shipments of plastics machinery in the first quarter was 6.9% lower than the first quarter last year.
While the total value of shipments decreased in the first quarter, single-screw extruders shipments rose by 15.5%. Shipments of twin-screw extruders declined marginally by 0.8%. Compared to the first quarter of 2019, the value of single-screw and twin-screw extruders were significantly higher by 34.9% and 19.3%, respectively. Injection molding equipment shipments’ value, however, fell 23.6% from the previous quarter and decreased 11.8% from a year ago.
“The first quarter shipments were expected to come in lower due to the coronavirus shutdowns in March,” said Perc Pineda, chief economist with the Washington, D.C.-based Plastics Industry Association. “Nevertheless, we saw robust growth in single-screw and twin-screw shipments on a year-over-year basis.”
CES also conducts a quarterly survey of plastics machinery suppliers, regarding present market conditions and future expectations. In the coming quarter, 18.5% of respondents expect conditions to either improve or hold steady in the next quarter, which is lower than 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.
“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.”
Plastics machinery exports in the first quarter totalled $358.5 million – a 1.6% increase from the previous quarter. Imports rose by 0.5% to US$746.3 million, resulting in a trade deficit of US$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 totalled US$153.4 million, 42.8% of total U.S. plastics machinery exports.