The Census Bureau reported that new orders for manufactured goods were up 1.8 percent in December. The increase was driven primarily by higher sales of aircraft and ships, similar to what we saw when from the advanced data on durable goods sales last week. In fact, if you were to exclude transportation equipment from the analysis, new orders would have risen just 0.2 percent, essentially offsetting the 0.2 percent loss for non-transportation orders experienced the month before.
Breaking this figure down, durable goods orders (including transportation) were up 4.3 percent; whereas, nondurable goods sales were off 0.3 percent. Core capital goods orders (e.g., nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft) were down 0.3 percent, as well, reflecting significant weaknesses at year’s end in the manufacturing marketplace.
Other durable goods sectors with higher sales in December included computers and electronic products (up 4.1 percent), primary metals (up 3.2 percent), fabricated metal products (up 1.3 percent), and furniture and related products (up 0.8 percent). There were decreased levels of new orders observed in the electrical equipment and appliances (down 3.1 percent) and machinery (down 1.1 percent), among others.
Meanwhile, shipments of manufactured goods rose 0.4 percent, the fourth consecutive month of higher levels and its highest level since July 2008. Durable and nondurable goods shipments were up 1.1 percent and down 0.3 percent. For the durables, the stronger industries matched the ones discussed above for new orders, with transportation shipments more muted (up 1.4 percent). In the nondurable categories, gaining sectors were in leather and allied products (up 2.9 percent), food products (up 0.5 percent), and textile mills (up 0.5 percent).
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.