North American shipments of plastics machinery were up 15 percent in the first quarter of 2018 compared with the first quarter of 2017, according to figures released July 10 by the Plastics Industry Association's Committee on Equipment Statistics. The data marks the fourth consecutive quarterly year-over-year increase.
Companies reported shipments of injection molding and extrusion equipment totaling $333.7 million in the first quarter. Last year's first quarter total was $290 million, according to the association. Shipments of blow molding machinery were not reported in the first quarter of 2018.
The first quarter data from 2018 marks an 11.7 percent decrease from the fourth quarter of 2017 when companies reported machinery shipments totaling $378 million.
The association's chief economist Perc Pineda said in a statement that plastics machinery shipments "tend to be lower in the first quarter relative to other quarters due to seasonality."
"Still, the U.S. economy was off to a good start in the first quarter," he said.
Pineda cited high business confidence that was boosted by the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act near the end of 2017.
The bill, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Dec. 22, lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. It also included a 20 percent deduction on taxable income for S corporations and LLCs as well as an immediate 100 percent depreciation for capital investments.
"Plastics equipment shipments data are in sync with healthy corporate profits in the manufacturing sector, including the plastics industry," Pineda said.
Survey respondents to the association's first quarter survey said they expect construction, appliances and packaging to be strong end markets in 2018. With the U.S. economy at full employment capacity, market conditions are also expected to remain stable for the year, respondents said.
Other first quarter highlights from the association's report include:
• Injection molding machines were up nearly 23 percent in the first quarter compared with the first quarter of 2017.
• Single-screw extruders declined 14.6 percent.
• Twin-screw extruders, including co-rotating and counter-rotating machines, decreased 27 percent.