While the North American machine tool sector fought through another quarter of weak demand, some of their European counterparts are enjoying a recovery of sorts. The trade association representing Italy’s machine tool builders reported that group’s second-quarter 2014 orders increased 14.4% versus the same period of 2013.
Relatedly, the German Machine Tool Builders Association recently reported new orders have weakened in the most recent month’s results.
"The results (are) certainly positive, because it confirms the change in trend already detected during the previous quarter,” according to Luigi Galdabini, president of UCIMU-Sistemi per Produrre. “However, it has to be considered that the increase appears consistent because it compares with 2013, one of the worst years of the Italian industry of the sector."
UCIMU represents about 200 companies that account for over 70% of Italy’s manufacturing technology sector. Earlier the group reported that its members’ 2013 production totaled €4.8 billion ($6.5 billion), and more recently it forecast that its 2014 production would rise 4.4% to €4.7 billion ($6.3 billion.)
The period from 2009 through 2012 saw output for Italian machine tools decline considerably, both in terms of the domestic deliveries and exports. The latter, however, recovered more quickly and sustained the machine tool builders through much of 2011 and 2012, while domestic demand remained fallow.
In the first quarter of 2014, UCIMU reported orders increased 15.2% compared with the January-March 2013 period, noting that increase represented improvements in both foreign and domestic demand.
The 14.4% increase in Q2 2014 demand again was due to domestic and export markets — domestic orders up 59.9%, exports up 7.8% — though UCIMU noted with concern that the level of investments planned for the Italian market remains short of the expectations based on recently enacted tax incentives to encourage new capital projects.
The group noted its members most important export markets remain (in order) Germany, France, Poland, Great Britain, and Spain, all of which increased their level of purchases for Italian machine tools. Deliveries to other markets all declined in value during the quarter, including China, the U.S., Russia, India, Brazil, and Turkey.
In a statement earlier this month UCIMU forecast that its 2014 exports totals would increase 3.4% overall versus 2013, with exports increasing 4.7% to €3.545 billion ($4.8 billion), while Italian consumption increasing 3.3% increase to €2.115 billion ($2.8 billion). It also forecast that imports of manufacturing technology would grow (+3.3%), keeping its import/consumption ratio stable at 75.7%.