The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s second-quarter machinery report has some good news - growth in extrusion equipment and the screw-and-barrel components sector - but some bad news, from weakness in injection presses and auxiliary equipment.
Blow molding machines were a mixed bag, showing a decline in unit shipments from the first quarter, but an increase when measured in dollar value.
SPI's Committee on Equipment Statistics said that, although the U.S. business cycle was in a recovery phase for the past year, the manufacturing sector lost momentum by the second quarter of 2003. Capacity utilization at the nation's plastics factories continued to bump up against the 80 percent level, averaging 79.5 percent for the second quarter, SPI reported. High prices for resin and energy also helped squelch the machinery recovery.
The components sector - U.S. shipments of screws and barrels - is considered a leading indicator for broader capital spending. Screws and barrels enjoyed a solid second quarter. SPI reported second-quarter screw shipments of 1,974 units, a 2.2 percent increase from the first quarter of 2003 (1,932) and 7.4 percent higher than the second quarter of 2002 (1,838).
Barrels turned in a stronger performance. SPI said barrels totaled 2,069 units in the second quarter, up 7.6 percent from the first quarter (1,923), and an 11 percent jump from the year-earlier second quarter (1,863).
After suffering through a weak first quarter, extruder shipments rebounded smartly. In the second quarter, 231 extruders were shipped to U.S. customers, soaring 44.4 percent from the first-quarter output of 160 extruders. The second-quarter shipment number was 7.4 percent higher than the 215 extruders sold in the second quarter of 2002.
The extrusion picture was the same when measured in dollar volume. Second-quarter shipments totaled $31 million, up 48.7 percent from the first-quarter total of $20.9 million, and up 8 percent from the year-earlier, second-quarter total of $28.7 million.
SPI tracks both single- and twin-screw equipment.
For the key segment of injection molding machines, the news was more downbeat. Injection presses continued a fall in units that began in the fourth quarter of last year. In the second quarter of 2003, SPI reported shipments of 809 units, down 3.3 percent from 837 units shipped in the first quarter, and a decline of 5 percent from the year-ago second-quarter shipments of 852 presses.
Based on first-half numbers, U.S. injection press shipments could struggle to reach the 3,500 level of 2002 and 2001.
Measured in dollars, U.S. shipments were valued at $171.6 million in the second quarter, down 1.8 percent from first-quarter shipments of $174.7 million. That equals a 6 percent decline measured against the second quarter of 2002, when shipments were $182.5 million.
Auxiliary equipment bookings declined for the second straight quarter, to $70.3 million. That was a 7.2 percent decline from the first quarter ($75.7 million) and an 8 percent decline from the second quarter a year ago ($76.4 million).
SPI said 30 blow molding machines were shipped in the second quarter, down 21 percent in units from the first quarter (38), but an increase of 36.4 percent from the second quarter of 2002 (22 units).
When measured by sales, however, the $23.2 million worth of blow molding machines from the second quarter was up 6.4 percent from the first-quarter amount of $21.8 million, and up 9.7 percent from the year-earlier second quarter of $21.1 million.
Overall, plastics machinery shipments totaled $294.4 million in the second quarter, about even with first-quarter sales of $293 million. Second-quarter sales declined 4.6 percent when measured against the 2002 second-quarter total of $308.7 million.