U.S. manufacturers’ new orders of machine tools declined in February for the fifth consecutive month, falling -15.3% from January to $337.2 million. The U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders (USMTO) report, from which the figures are supplied, now shows the year-to-date order volume at $735.18 million, less than 1.0% versus the January-February 2018 total.
The ongoing decline in demand for machine tools is also apparent in orders reported by several European machine-tool manufacturing associations.
AMT – the Assn. for Manufacturing Technology issues the monthly USMTO report, tracking new orders for "manufacturing technology" (capital equipment for metal cutting and metal forming and fabricating) as a leading indicator of industrial activity, as manufacturers invest to complete planned or anticipated production programs. The USMTO report is based on data supplied by participating producers and distributors of metal-cutting and metal-forming and -fabricating equipment.
AMT noted the February figures reflect a -50% decline in orders placed by aerospace, engine, and turbine sector suppliers, though automotive sector suppliers offered a "modest, double-digit uptick" in new orders.
Also according to AMT, "February 2019 had a notable expansion in orders from commercial and service industry machinery manufacturing, such as water-treatment and commercial-cleaning equipment."
“It’s important to look at the February numbers in context,” AMT president Douglas K. Woods said of the latest report. "It’s true that order levels declined, but from the second strongest January in the history of the USMTO program. They’re still at good levels compared to this time a year ago.
“Other indicators signal continued manufacturing strength. AMT members are generally positive heading into the second quarter," Woods continued, citing the progress of U.S.-China tariff negotiations and the Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index. “However, uncertainty lingers on issues such as tax, trade, and the budget, and continued inaction in Washington could stall already sluggish growth.”
The USMTO report includes regional summaries for machine-tool orders, too: in the Northeast, new orders totaled $62.4 million for February, -20.8% from January and -19.2% from February 2018. At $137.88 million, the regional YTD total for metal-cutting equipment orders is roughly even with the two-month total for 2018.
In the Southeast region, February new orders for metal-cutting equipment totaled $35.68 million, down -33.3% from January and up 21.3% from February 2018. The YTD total of $89.22 million is up 35.6% over January-February 2018.
In the North Central-East region, manufacturing technology new orders totaled $63.6 million in February, down-26.5% from January and -27.1% from February 2018. The current year’s two-month total is $150.11 million, down -12.6% versus last year.
In the North Central-West, new orders totaled $65.02 million in February, -10.2% from January but up 3.3% from February 2018. The YTD total for the region is $137.44 million, or -3.9% lower than last year’s comparable result.
The South Central region’s new orders for cutting tools totaled of $42.6 million in February, up 28.9% from January and up 3.3% from February 2018. The YTD total for metal-cutting equipment orders in the region is $75.65 million, a drop of -15.8% from 2018.
Finally, in the West region, new orders for metal-cutting equipment rose to $64.47 million, up 2.9% from January and up 5.2% from February 2018. For the current two-month period of 2019, metal-cutting equipment orders are up 3.3% from last year to $127.13 million.