The Census Bureau said that new factory orders increased 1.6 percent in February, recovering somewhat from the sharp declines in both December and January. This was consistent with the advance data provided on durable goods the week before, with the sector rebounding from winter weather slowness. New manufactured goods orders have risen from $482.7 billion in August to $488.8 billion in February, an increase of 1.3 percent.
New durable goods orders rose 2.2 percent for the month, lifted by strong sales growth for motor vehicles and aircraft. Excluding transportation, manufacturing orders were up 0.7 percent, with durable goods edging only marginally higher in February, up just 0.1 percent. At the same time, new nondurable manufactured goods increased by 1.0 percent.
Looking specifically at new durable goods orders in February, the data were largely mixed. Areas of strength included transportation equipment (up 7.0 percent), primary metals (up 1.7 percent), fabricated metal products (up 0.4 percent), computers and electronic products (up 0.2 percent), and furniture and related products (up 0.2 percent). But, these were offset by reduced new orders for electrical equipment and appliances (down 1.3 percent) and machinery (down 1.2 percent).
Meanwhile, manufactured goods shipments were up 0.9 percent, also rebounding after lower data in both December and January. Durable and nondurable goods shipments rose 0.8 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively. On a year-over-year basis, shipments have grown from $489.5 billion in February 2013 to $493.5 billion, up 0.8 percent.
Sectors with the largest increases in monthly shipments included textile products (up 4.9 percent), petroleum and coal products (up 2.0 percent), machinery (up 1.7 percent), nonmetallic mineral products (up 1.7 percent), transportation equipment (up 1.5 percent), apparel (up 1.4 percent), and plastics and rubber products (up 1.0 percent). In contrast, there were declining shipments in the following areas: leather and allied products (down 1.6 percent), computers and electronic products (down 1.4 percent), beverage and tobacco products (down 0.7 percent), electrical equipment and appliances (down 0.5 percent), printing (down 0.3 percent), and wood products (down 0.3 percent).
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.