The Census Bureau reported that new orders for manufactured goods fell 1.5 percent in March, reversing last month’s 1.1 percent gain. This was a result of a steep decline in nondefense aircraft orders, as we noted last week with the release of advance durable goods data. When the transportation sector is excluded, new orders were flat.
Nondurable goods orders did better than durables in March, with new nondurable goods sales up 0.5 percent. Many of the major durable goods sectors had losses, including primary metals (down 2 percent), machinery (down 1.9 percent), computers and electronic products (down 1.7 percent) and furniture and related products (down 0.5 percent). The one area of strength for the month was among electrical equipment and appliances (up 2.7 percent); although, this was a reversal of the 2.7 percent decline in February.
Shipments data were more positive, with both durable and nondurable goods higher (up 0.9 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively). Core capital goods (nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft) rose a strong 2.6 percent. Sectors with the strongest gains in shipments in March included machinery (up 6.5 percent), electrical equipment and appliances (up 2.3 percent) and transportation equipment (up 1.2 percent).
These numbers were mostly in-line with estimates and reflect recent weaknesses in the sector.
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.