New orders for manufactured durable goods -- such products as autos, airplanes and appliances -- rose six-tenths of a percentage point in December 2004 to $200.3 billion, the U.S. Commerce Department reported on Jan. 27. That's just one-third of November's 1.8% increase and just under economists' expectations for a seven-tenths percentage point increase in December.
Nevertheless, David Huether, chief economist at the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers, took heart in December's orders, which posted a 2.1% increase when transportation goods, mainly airplanes and autos, were excluded from the total. "The increase in new orders last month was diffuse, ranging from primary metals to machinery and computers to motor vehicles," says Huether. "Taken together, these reports are an encouraging sign that the manufacturing recovery entering 2005 is broad-based."