The Census Bureau said that new orders for manufactured goods rose a healthy 3.0 percent in February, erasing the 1.0 percent decline observed in January. This analysis builds on data released last week on durable goods, with strong demand for defense and nondefense aircraft boosting those figures higher. Sales in the transportation sector as a whole in this latest report were up 21.8 percent, reversing the 17.7 drop from the month before. Motor vehicle sales were also up 1.4 percent. With this in mind, new orders rose just 0.3 percent when transportation sales were excluded.
Nondurable goods orders – the new figure in this release – were up 0.8 percent in February, building on a 1.4 percent gain in January. Durable goods sales were mixed outside of the transportation sectors. There were increases in new orders in the electrical equipment and appliances (up 3.3 percent), primary metals (up 2.0 percent), and furniture (up 1.4 percent) sectors. But, these were offset by declines in fabricated metals (down 3.9 percent), machinery (down 2.5 percent), and computers and electronic products (down 0.5 percent). New orders for core capital goods (or nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft) were down 3.2 percent, reflecting sizable softness in new orders in the marketplace beyond the transportation sectors.
Meanwhile, shipments of manufactured goods were up 0.9 percent, rising for the second straight month. Both durable and nondurable goods shipments were higher, up 1.0 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively, and core capital goods shipments increased 1.9 percent. The largest monthly gains in shipments were in the machinery (up 2.5 percent), petroleum and coal products (up 2.4 percent), textile products (up 2.3 percent), textile mills (up 1.8 percent), apparel (up 1.8 percent), and transportation equipment (up 1.6 percent).
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.