Machinery: the American Market Slowdown

Sharp decrease of US imports in Q4-2019, after an uninterrupted period of growth

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Slowdown Industrial equipment United States of America Uncertainty Import Global economic trends

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The update of US foreign trade data to the fourth quarter of 20191 released on ExportPlanning shows a sharp slowdown of the American demand of Machinery2.

The US market had so far not been affected by the slowdown in world demand for machinery in several quarters (see article "Effects of the Great Uncertainty at an International Level: Machinery is the most Affected Industry in terms of World Trade"): indeed, in the first three quarters of 2019 US imports of Machinery had recorded an annual cumulative growth of +11.4% in USD.
But in Q4-2019, according to latest US Census Bureau data, the climate of uncertainty linked to the trade wars seems to have also infected the American "locomotive": US imports of Machinery did record the first decline (-4.5% year-over-year in USD) after 13 consecutive quarters of growth.

Signs of market slowdown are also visible in the US Industrial Production index, which - after a strong growth period - has been declining for some months (see graph below).

Concomitant signs of the decrease in the US industry's demand for capital goods are contractions recorded by US imports of Industrial Tools and Equipment (-4.9% in year-over-year USD values) and Industrial Plants (-7.4% in year-over-year USD values).

US Imports of Machinery by sectors
Values 2018 % Year-over-Year changes in USD
Sector Milions USD 2018 Jan-Sep '19 Oct-Dec '19
Metalworking machine tools 8 914.0 +16.0% +44.4% -1.4%
Textile machinery 3 123.9 -17.2% -4.8% -8.7%
Food machinery 2 554.3 +6.5% +5.6% +0.5%
Packaging machinery 2 510.2 +19.1% +0.8% -1.0%
Extrusion machinery 2 111.6 +1.0% -4.7% -15%
Machine tools for hard materials 1 875.0 +9.4% +2.4% -13.0%
Machinery for metal processing 1 442.7 +7.2% -11.2% -2.9%
Paper-making machinery 1 096.6 +16.6% +12.9% +2.2%
Printing machinery 617.2 +4.7% +4.6% -11.1%
Other special purpose machinery 6 409.0 +6.4% -2.3% -5.8%
Source: ExportPlanning - US Trade datamart

For the Machinery industry sector, particularly affected were US imports of Extrusion machinery (-15% in the period October-December 2019, thus worsening the already negative trend of the first part of the year), Machine tools for hard materials (down 13% in the last quarter, from +2.4% in the first nine months of the year), Printing machinery (-11.1% in the most recent quarter, after +4.6% in the first three quarters of 2019), Textile machinery (-8.7%), Other special purpose machinery (-5.8%) and - although decidedly less relevant - Metalworking machine tools (-1.4%, after a very positive first part of the year) and Packaging machines (-1%).
Still positive - albeit also in deceleration - US imports in dollar values of Paper-making machinery (+2.2% trend in the most recent quarter, from +12.9% in the first three quarters of 2019) and Food Machinery (+0.5% in the most recent quarter, from +5.6% in the first three quarters).


1) Pre-estimates based on U.S. Foreign Trade Declarations collected by U.S. Census Bureau.
2) See the sectors' list analyzed in the following industry's description.