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Machine Tool Orders Fall in January, Coronavirus May Delay Industry Comeback

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

Machine tool orders fell sharply in January while the new coronavirus (COVID-19) may delay the industry’s comeback, AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology, said today in a monthly report.

Orders for January totaled $239.4 million for the first month of 2020. That was a 32 percent fall from an adjusted $398.8 million for December. It was also a 34 percent decline from $408.1 million in January 2019.

AMT said the January 2020 was the lowest January for orders since 2017.

The McLean, Va.-based group previously has said it expected a comeback for machine tool orders beginning around mid-year.

AMT cautioned a rebound may be pushed back as the number of the coronavirus cases expand. China was the first major nation to be hit and the virus caused factory shutdowns. It has spread to South Korea and Japan.

In Europe, Italy has been hard hit, with much of the industrial northern part of the county going on lockdown in an effort to contain the disease. Cases in the United States are on the upswing. The U.S. auto industry stands to be affected by a decline in parts imported from China.

“It now appears that the coronavirus will likely impact a turnaround in manufacturing technology on several fronts,” Douglas K. Woods, president of AMT, said in a written statement.

“Global travel and commerce will be negatively impacted, supply chains in Asia will continue to be disrupted, and purchasing decisions will be delayed due to uncertainty,” Wood added.

The figures released by AMT are based on information from companies participating in the organization’s U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders (USMTO) program.

Woods said there are signs that orders will recover once the coronavirus subsides. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index has shown expansion during the first two months of 2020 following five months of economic contraction to end 2019.

“The fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong, and this should aid in a quick recovery,” Woods said.  

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