WASHINGTON: New orders for US-made goods rose less than expected in January and shipments fell for a fourth straight month, offering more evidence of a slowdown in manufacturing activity.
Factory goods orders edged up 0.1 per cent, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday (Mar 19), held back by decreases in orders for computers and electronic products, after rising by the same margin in December.
There were also declines in demand for primary metals and fabricated metal products.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders rising 0.3 per cent in January. Factory orders increased 3.8 per cent compared to January 2018.
Shipments of factory goods fell 0.4 per cent after dropping 0.2 per cent in December. They have now declined for four consecutive months, the longest streak since mid-2015.
Factory orders are likely to remain soft as unfilled orders rose only 0.1 per cent in January after dropping for three straight months.
Stocks at manufacturers jumped 0.5 per cent in January after edging up 0.1 per cent in the prior month.
The release of the report was delayed by a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended on Jan 25. US financial markets were little moved by the data.
Reports last Friday showed manufacturing output fell for a second straight month in February and factory activity in New York state hit nearly a two-year low this month.
Manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 per cent of the economy, is losing momentum as the stimulus from last year's US$1.5 trillion tax cut package fades.
Activity is also being hampered by a trade war between the United States and China as well as by last year's surge in the dollar and softening global economic growth, which are hurting exports.
In January, orders for machinery rose 1.5 per cent after falling 0.4 per cent in December. Orders for mining, oil field and gas field machinery fell 2.7 per cent after tumbling 8.2 per cent in December.
Orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components rebounded 1.4 per cent after dropping 0.3 per cent in December. Computers and electronic products orders fell 0.9 per cent after decreasing 0.4 per cent in December.
Orders for primary metals declined 2.0 per cent and fabricated metal products orders fell 0.6 per cent. Transportation equipment orders increased 1.2 per cent in January, slowing from the prior month's 3.2 per cent rise.
Orders for civilian aircraft and parts increased 15.6 per cent in January. Motor vehicles and parts orders gained 0.4 per cent.
The Commerce Department also said January orders for non-defence capital goods excluding aircraft, which are seen as a measure of business spending plans on equipment, rose 0.8 per cent as reported last week. Orders for these so-called core capital goods dropped 0.8 per cent in December.
Shipments of core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, also increased 0.8 per cent in January as previously reported. Core capital goods shipments edged up 0.1 per cent in December.