North American shipments of primary plastics machinery were up 8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to figures released Feb. 22 by the Plastics Industry Association's Committee on Equipment Statistics.
The preliminary estimate of shipments value for injection molding machines and extrusion equipment in the fourth quarter was $376.9 million, according to the association. Injection molding shipments were up nearly 9 percent. Single-screw and twin-screw extruder shipments were up 4.6 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
Compared with the fourth quarter of 2017, the value of single-screw and twin-screw extruders jumped 33.7 percent and 52 percent, respectively. The value of injection molding shipments dropped nearly 5 percent over the same period.
“We projected higher shipments for the fourth quarter and that's exactly what transpired,” Perc Pineda, chief economist for the association, said in a statement. “The increase is not due to inflationary pressures of the economy, which one tends to think about when dollar value increases, but purely an increase in the quantity of shipments.”
Unit shipments of injection molding machines rose 2.7 percent in the fourth quarter, and single-screw and twin-screw extruders increased 5.6 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively, Pineda said.
“All told, quantity shipments of primary plastics machinery increased by 3.8 percent from the third quarter,” he said.
In the committee's fourth quarter survey of plastics machinery suppliers, 75 percent of respondents said they expect conditions to either improve or hold steady in the first quarter of 2019. Sixty-seven percent of respondents expect the market to be steady to better in 2019.
Suppliers said Latin America and Mexico are growing export markets for plastics machinery. But ongoing trade tensions between the United States and China remain a concern in addition to a shakier economic performance in most of Europe, according to the survey.
Major end markets that continue to have strong demand, according to surveyed suppliers, are medical and packaging.