By John S. McClenahen For the machine tool industry, the U.S. economic "soft patch" seems to have continued into July. Gross new orders for U.S. consumption slowed 12.7% to $243.09 million in July, report the American Machine Tool Distributors' Association, Rockville, Md., and AMT-the Association for Manufacturing Technology, McLean, Va. In July, new orders for metal-cutting machine tools decreased 7.3% to $225.77 million and new orders for metal-forming machine tools decreased 50.4% to $17.32 million. For 2004 through July, the new order book is fuller, however. Orders total $1.586 billion for the first seven months of this year, 39.3% higher than the $1.139 billion recorded during the first seven months of 2003.