In the first quarter of 2003, shipments of injection molding, blow molding and extrusion machinery all declined compared with the fourth quarter of 2002, according to the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
But Washington-based SPI said both injection and blow molding equipment shipments increased measured against the first quarter in 2002.
SPI's Machinery Division released the data Aug. 29.
The report includes an analysis by Bill Wood, an economist who covers the plastics industry. Wood said spiking resin prices in the first quarter - the result of higher oil and natural gas prices - hurt profitability of plastics processors, and it caused the machinery industry to decline from the fourth quarter of 2002.
``Profits are what drive machinery sales,'' Wood said, adding that he thinks lower resin prices and an improving economy will help machinery sales as 2002 winds down.
``The production of plastics products will be trending upward by year's end,'' said Wood, president of Mountaintop Economics & Research Inc. in Colrain, Mass. He predicts overall production of plastic products will grow by 3-4 percent this year.
Wood said high resin prices really hurt extruder makers, the hardest-hit sector in both the previous quarter and year-to-year comparisons. Resin is a higher percentage of the total costs of extruded products than other types of plastics processors, he said in a telephone interview.
Shipments of extrusion equipment totaled 160 units in the first quarter of 2003 - down 38.2 percent from the fourth-quarter figure of 259 units and 31.6 percent from 234 units during the year-ago period.
Overall, plastics machinery shipments totaled $293 million in the first quarter. That is a decline of 13.5 percent from $338.8 million in the fourth quarter and a 12 percent improvement from $261.6 million in the first quarter of 2002.
Injection molding presses continued to struggle. In 2002, injection presses increased in each of the first three quarters, before falling slightly in the fourth period. First-quarter 2003 shipments were 837 units, down 12 percent from 950 units in the fourth quarter, but a 9 percent increase from the first quarter of 2002.
Blow molding machines totaled 38 units, a 15.5 percent decline from the fourth quarter but a 100 percent increase from the first quarter of 2001, when shipments were just 19 units.
First-quarter shipments of auxiliary equipment slipped 2.7 percent from the fourth quarter, but increased 9 percent from the year-earlier quarter.
Measured against the fourth quarter, screws improved in the first quarter. Barrels slipped slightly.