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Machine Tool Orders Post Monthly Gain in March, Lag on Year-Over-Year Basis

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

Machine tool orders posted a monthly gain in March while falling compared with a year earlier, AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology said today.

Orders weakened in the second half of March, the McLean, Va.-based group said in a monthly report. AMT said it expects orders for April and May will reflect stay-at-home orders and other steps taken to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

In March, orders totaled $301.2 million in March, according to today’s report. That was a gain of 8.2 percent from February’s adjusted $278.4 million.

The March figure, however, represented a 29 percent decline from $425.7 million in March 2019, AMT said.

AMT expected an increase from February “since many companies’ fiscal years end in March, which typically drives up orders,” Douglas K. Woods, president of AMT, said in a statement.

Woods said orders in the first half of March were “fairly robust.”

In the second half of the month, the economy slammed the brakes as efforts to address the COVID-19 outbreak took hold. That included plant shutdowns in industries such as automotive and aerospace.

As a result, Woods said, “order volume decelerated rapidly in the second half of the month.”

Orders for the first quarter slid 26 percent to $863.3 million compared with $1.17 billion for the same period in 2019. The figures are compiled from data supplied by companies participating in AMT’s U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders (USMTO) program.

AMT expects orders for April and May “to be significantly impacted by the inability of salespeople to meet with new prospects and visit customers’ facilities,” Woods said.

The contract machining sector is seeing a 70 percent to 80 percent drop in new quotation activity, the AMT president said. “If this rate of decline is representative of other key sectors, then much of the industry can expect a large drop-off in order volumes in the second and third quarters.”

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