The Census Bureau said that new durable goods orders rose 4.0 percent in March, increasing for just the third time in the past eight months. Strong defense and nondefense aircraft orders helped to push the headline index higher, and motor vehicle sales also rebounded from recent weaknesses. Note that aircraft sales are often bulked together in batches, making them more volatile from month-to-month. As a whole, transportation equipment orders jumped 13.5 percent in March.
Excluding transportation, the news was less encouraging, with durable goods down 0.2 percent. Indeed, durable goods orders excluding transportation have fallen from their recent peak of $169.2 billion in September to $159.9 billion in March, a drop of 5.5 percent over the past six months. To be fair, the September figure might have been an outlier, with an average of $164.6 billion for 2014 as a whole. Still, that represents a softer sales environment than we would prefer for the broader durable goods sector. (continue reading…)