The shipments value of primary plastics machinery (injection molding and extrusion) in North America declined in the first quarter of 2019, according to the statistics compiled and reported by the Plastics Industry Association’s (PLASTICS) Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES)

While 2018 ended with strong plastics machinery shipments, 2019 has started soft. The preliminary estimate of the shipments value from reporting companies totaled $273.0 million—27.6% lower than the fourth quarter of 2018. Injection molding shipments fell 26.3% and single- and twin-extrusion equipment shipments decreased 24.8% and 46.2%, respectively. Year over year, the value of shipments for single- and twin-screw extrusion equipment rose 19.8% and 8.3%, respectively.

“First quarter data usually comes in soft, but the declines reflect the expectation of weaker U.S. and global economic growth,” said Perc Pineda, PhD, chief economist of PLASTICS. “Price effects were also at play in the first quarter. The producer price index on industrial machinery manufacturing has been on a decline from its peak in the third quarter last year.”

CES also conducts a quarterly survey of plastics machinery suppliers that asks about present market conditions and expectations for the future. In the coming quarter, 70% of the respondents expect conditions to either improve or hold steady. As for the next 12 months, 60% expect the market to be steady-to-better. While growth expectations for the industrial and packaging markets remained strong, a weaker global economic forecast, the unresolved U.S.-China trade issue, and the anxious anticipation surrounding the passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) by the three countries involved were reflected in the survey results.

On the international front, plastics machinery exports totaled $363.1 million, with Mexico and Canada remaining the largest U.S. export markets. Exports to Canada and Mexico in the first quarter were $77.7 million and $72.9 million, respectively. As previously projected by PLASTICS, plastics machinery exports fell short of $400 million—following the $416.5 million in exports in the fourth quarter last year.

“Demand in the plastics industry is expected to remain positive against the backdrop of slower U.S. economic growth this year. However, plastics machinery makers should also consider that weaker global economic conditions will have knock-on effects on the industry,” Pineda added. The PLASTICS Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES) collects monthly data from manufacturers of plastic injection molding, extrusion, blow molding, hot runners and auxiliary equipment. A confidential, third-party fiduciary, Vault Consulting, LLC, compiles the monthly data and analyzes individual company data for consistency and accuracy.

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