Factory Orders Fall In July

The manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy softened in July, according to data the U.S. Commerce Department released on August 30. New orders for manufactured goods fell 1.9% in July to $387.8 billion, the largest percent decrease in 15 months. New orders had risen nine-tenths of a percentage point in June and 4.2% in May.

New orders for manufactured nondurable goods did increase last month, rising 1.7% to $183.1 billion. But their gain was more than offset by a 4.9% decrease to $204.7 billion in new orders for durable goods, generally big-ticket items such as appliances, autos and airplanes that are designed to last at least three years.

After looking at the numbers, the economists at Merrill Lynch & Co., New York, continued to look for a 3.5% annual rate of real GDP growth in the current calendar quarter -- although they say, "There may be some downside risk related to hurricane disruptions and higher energy costs."

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