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."