Washington — Total North American shipments of plastics machinery was basically flat in 2016 over 2015, but they posted a fourth-quarter decline measured on a year-over-year basis, the Plastics Industry Association reported.
The Washington trade group said it marked the first instance of back-to-back quarterly declines since the plastics machinery recovery that began in 2010, after the Great Recession. Shipments in the fourth quarter of 2016 totaled $361.7 million. That was 7.4 percent lower than the 2015 fourth quarter, which was “robust,” the report said.
For the whole year, shipments of primary plastics equipment increased 1.2 percent in 2016 from the 2015 level.
In Plastics News stories, injection machinery leaders have said U.S. shipments of injection molding machines had topped the 4,000-unit mark in 2015, to around 4,100. The Plastics Industry Association does not release unit numbers in its public report.
The group's Committee on Equipment Statistics issued the numbers. The dollar value of shipments fell by 7.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, the report said.
“After rising steadily for six years, shipments of plastics equipment hit a plateau in 2016. The annual total was just high enough to extend the string of annual increases to seven years,” said Bill Wood, a plastics economist who analyzes the numbers. “The quarterly comparisons will be difficult in the first half of 2017, but the underlying economic fundamentals will gradually improve.”
Wood, who runs Mountaintop Economics & Research Inc., said the increase “may re-emerge later this year” if Congress passes corporate tax reform. Wood also is economics editor for Plastics News.
The value of shipments for single screw extruders fell by 8.1 percent for the year-to-year fourth quarter. Shipments of blow molding machines increased by 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter.
New bookings of auxiliary equipment totaled $126.6 million in the fourth quarter, flat compared to the year-ago period, but a 5 percent gain from the prior, third quarter of 2016.