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Plastics Machinery Shipments Increase 8.8% in Q3 Compared with Last Year

Image: Alamy/Aleksei Gorodenkov trend analysis on laptop
Headwinds from continued supply-chain shortages and the twists and turns of the global pandemic may yet derail progress.

The shipments of plastics injection molding and extrusion machinery in North America increased in the third quarter, reports the Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES) of the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS).

The preliminary estimate of shipment value from reporting companies totaled $333.8 million in the third quarter, a 4% increase from the previous quarter and 8.8% from a year earlier.

Twin-screw extruders rose significantly in shipment value by 44.4% in the third quarter, 61.2% above the third quarter last year. Shipments of single-screw extruders rose by 7.2% from the previous quarter and 15.9% from the third quarter last year. Injection molding shipments edged up 1.6% from the second quarter and 5.7% from a year earlier, reported the CES.

Noting that the upward trajectory in demand for plastics processing equipment continues as the economy emerges from the pandemic, Perc Pineda, PhD, Chief Economist at PLASTICS, said the “increase in shipments was consistent with higher plastics production, which in the third quarter rose 4.2%, or 5.9% from a year earlier.”

Plastics Industry Associationmachinery shipments chart

In compiling the statistics, the CES also conducts a quarterly survey of plastics machinery suppliers about present market conditions and expectations for the future.

In the third quarter survey, 75.5% of respondents said they expect market conditions either to improve or hold steady in the coming quarter. That’s a decline from the 92.7% of respondents who expressed the same view in the Q2 survey.

As for the next 12 months, 75% expect market conditions to be steady-to-better. This also is marginally lower than the 78.7% of respondents in the Q2 survey who anticipated growth in the next 12 months.

“While the survey results show that growth expectations have moderated, it also reveals that plastics machinery suppliers remain optimistic about market conditions four quarters ahead,” said Pineda.

Plastics machinery exports increased by 6.1% to $390.2 million compared with the second quarter. Mexico and Canada remain the top export markets of plastics machinery. Combined exports to USMCA partners in the third quarter totaled $172.6 million, which was 44.2% of total plastics machinery exports. Imports fell by 3% to $848.4 million, resulting in a $458.3 million trade deficit. The US plastics machinery trade deficit decreased by 9.6% in the third quarter. US trade data in the third quarter are in sync with the improving global trade outlook. The World Trade Organization now expects a 10.8% increase in global merchandise trade this year, an upward revision from its 8.4% projection in March.

While the outlook is largely positive, Pineda cautioned that we are not yet out of the woods. “Data we’re seeing at PLASTICS confirm our prior projections that the outlook for plastics machinery in the second half of 2021 is positive, albeit shipments will continue to fluctuate. The likelihood that supply-chain issues will continue to be a headwind in 2022 remains high. The globe is still emerging from the pandemic,” said Pineda.

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