By John S. McClenahen Total U.S. consumption of machine tools that cut and form metal was $211.03 million in April, some 25.5% below March's total of $283.15 million, according to figures released this week by AMT-The Association for Manufacturing Technology, McLean, Va., and the Rockville, Md.-based American Machine Tool Distributors' Association. This past April's total, however, was 45.2% higher than the $145.3 million total for April 2003. Through April this year, gross new orders of machine tools for U.S. consumption totaling $829.8 million were 46.2% higher than the $567.46 million total for the first four months of 2003. "It didn't surprise anyone that April machine tool orders were softer than March numbers," says John B. Byrd III, AMT's president. "After all, March was the best month the market has posted since March 2001 . . . ." In April, gross new orders for metal-cutting machine tools were $201.54 million, down 26.1% from March's $272.85 million; new orders for metal-forming machine tools were $9.49 million, down 7.9% from March's $10.3 million.