U.S. shipments of primary plastics machinery totaled $219 million in 2007's first quarter, down 11 percent from the first quarter a year ago, according to the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. in Washington.
The dollar amount includes injection presses, extruders and blow molding machines, but excludes auxiliary equipment and screws and barrels. SPI released the numbers July 20.
Extruders were the bright spot. SPI said unit shipments of extruders jumped 46 percent when compared with the first quarter of 2006, and gained 6 percent over the fourth quarter of 2006.
Bill Wood, an economist who provides the analysis for SPI's machinery reports, is forecasting a small overall improvement for the rest of the year.
Big-picture indicators remain strong, said Wood, who runs Mountaintop Economics & Research Inc. of Greenfield, Mass. Capacity utilization rates are high. Total output for plastic processors continued to expand during the first quarter.
``The main reasons for the decline include the high price of resins and energy, the ongoing struggles of the Detroit-based automakers and the continued decline in residential construction and real estate activity,'' Wood said. ``However, spending for new machinery should begin to pick up gradually in the second half of this year.''
SPI also reported:
* Unit sales of injection presses declined 21 percent from the 2006 first quarter.
* Blow molding machines were flat, with 23 units shipped in the first quarter of 2007, but the dollar value of $15 million was 50 percent higher.
* Screws and barrels declined 11 percent from the first quarter of 2006.