In a survey showing surprising weakness in the manufacturing sector, orders for durable goods fell 2.4%.
The decrease followed a revised surge of 4.8% in July, the Commerce Department said on Sept. 24.
Exluding transportation, new orders were down slightly. Excluding defense, new orders decreased 2.4%.
"The disappointing report on August durable goods activity supports the belief that the emerging U.S. and global economic recovery will be weak and laced with uncertainty at least for the first year or two," said Cliff Waldman, Economist for the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI.
"Underlying the flat performance of total new orders excluding the volatile transportation category was sluggish activity in a number of key industry sectors that should by now be enjoying much firmer demand. Machinery orders rose by less than 1% over July levels after a nearly 8% decline during the previous month, and computer orders had a substantial decline for the second consecutive month.
"More importantly, new orders for nondefense capital goods, excluding the volatile aircraft category, fell for the second consecutive month, indicating that business decision makers still do not have enough confidence in the sustainability and strength of the emerging U.S. and global recoveries to invest, particularly in an environment of significant excess capacity," he added.
"Key economic data on housing, labor markets, and exports do suggest that the deep recession is now transitioning into recovery. But the durability and contours of that recovery still remain in doubt as damaged housing and financial markets continue to repair themselves, as U.S. consumers continue to adjust their balance sheets for a more credit-constrained world, and as general consumer and business confidence in the financial and economic climate continues to heal."