Plastics machinery shipments rise in Q3

Business levels for manufacturers and suppliers of primary plastics machinery (injection molding, extrusion, blowmolding and thermoforming equipment) improved in the third quarter of 2013. Aaccording to statistics compiled and reported by the Committee on Equipment Statistics of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), shipments of primary plastics equipment for reporting companies totaled an estimated $3,276 million in Q3.

This total represented a gain of 20 percent when compared with the total from the second quarter of this year, and it was also an increase of 20 percent when compared with the total from the third quarter of 2012. This was the strongest quarterly total all year, and for the year to date the total value for primary plastics equipment shipments is up 12 percent when compared with last year.

Taking a closer look at the data, shipments of injection molding machinery were up 20 percent in the third quarter when compared with the same quarter of a year ago. Shipments of single-screw extruders advanced nine percent, and shipments of twins-screw were up 12 percent. Shipments of new thermoforming equipment were up 50 percent in Q3 when compared with last year.

The CES also compiles data on the auxiliary equipment segment (robotics, temperature control, materials handling, etc.) of the plastics machinery industry. New bookings of auxiliary equipment for reporting companies totaled $99.9 million dollars in Q3. This represented a 12 percent increase when compared with the total from the second quarter of this year. Precise year-ago comparisons for the auxiliary equipment data are not possible at the present time due to a significant change in the number of reporting companies for 2013. But it can be reasonably concluded that the four-year uptrend in this data continued, and the quarterly and year-to-date totals for 2013 represent a solid gain when compared with last year.

The strong rise in the CES data on plastics machinery shipments compares favorably to the solid gains in the two major U.S. data series compiled by the federal government that measure activity levels in the industrial machinery sector. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, business investment in industrial equipment advanced five percent (seasonally-adjusted, annualized rate) in the third quarter when compared with last year. The other important machinery market indicator, compiled by the Census Bureau, showed that the total value of U.S. shipments of industrial machinery advanced by 13 percent in Q3.

"These data indicate that the recovery in the plastics machinery sector remains intact, and it may even be gaining momentum," according to Bill Wood, the plastics market economist who analyzes and reports on this market sector for the CES. "The national level data suggest that the economy has yet to hit the sweet spot of the capital expenditure phase of the current recovery. This could start to happen as early as 2014, and when it does it should result in even stronger gains for the plastics machinery sector."

The CES also conducts a quarterly survey of plastics machinery suppliers that asks about present market conditions and expectations for the future. The responses from the Q3 survey reveal an upbeat attitude that is broad-based across the industry. When asked about expectations for future market conditions, 87 percent of the respondents expect conditions to stay the same or even improve in the coming quarter, and 92 percent expect them to hold steady or get better during the next year.

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