Durable Goods Decrease for Third Month in a Row

But machinery and computers showed healthy gains

New orders for manufactured durable goods in March decreased $0.7 billion or 0.3% to $212.2 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced April 24. This was the third consecutive monthly decrease and followed a 0.9% February decrease.

Excluding transportation, new orders increased 1.5%. Excluding defense, new orders increased 0.3%.

Inventories of manufactured durable goods in March, up eight of the last nine months, increased $3.5 billion or 1.1% to $327.1 billion.

"While the modest 0.3% fall in new orders for durable goods during March was the third consecutive decline in this key indicator of manufacturing demand, the broad swath of data in the March report is indicative of a mixed set of conditions in a factory sector that is, overall, in a mild recession," said Cliff Waldman, economist for the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI.

"Outside of the volatile transportation and defense categories, new orders were positive after declines in January and February. Key industries such as machinery and computers showed healthy gains and, even more encouragingly, input-producing industries such as primary and fabricated metals registered positive activity. However, new orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, an indicator of business equipment spending, was flat in March after two monthly declines," he added.

"Clearly, capital spending is being hampered by multiple uncertainties related to the short-term outlook for economic growth as well as surging energy and commodity prices. While a significant downturn does not appear imminent for the factory sector, domestic economic weakness and input price pressures will keep manufacturing in a weakened state for at least the next few quarters."

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