US factory orders slipped in April, investment weak

Demand for heavy machinery, iron and steel, and commercial airplanes declines.

June 5, 2017   by CP Staff

WASHINGTON — Orders to US factories fell in April for the first time in five months amid declining demand for heavy machinery, iron and steel, and commercial airplanes. A key category that tracks business investment was weak for a third month.

Factory orders edged down 0.2% in April after a 1% increase in March, the Commerce Department said. It was the first decline since a 2.3% drop last November.

A category that serves as a proxy for business investment posted a tiny 0.1% gain. Orders in this closely watched category had been flat in March.

The weakness in April was expected to be temporary, given hopes that manufacturing has started to bounce back in recent months from a prolonged slump last year.

Orders for durable goods – items ranging from bicycles to battleships that are expected to last at least three years – dropped 0.8% in April. Demand for nondurable goods, a category that covers such things as paper, chemicals and food, rose 0.4% in April.

Orders for transportation equipment in April fell 1.4%, as a 0.6% rise in demand for motor vehicles was offset by a 9.1% drop in orders for commercial aircraft, a volatile category.

Demand for machinery contracted 0.7%, reflecting a 16% plunge in demand for construction machinery. Orders for primary metals fell 0.7%, with demand for iron and steel down 2%.

Despite the April drop, American manufacturing has bounced back in recent months from a slump early last year. American manufacturing was hurt early last year and in late 2015 by cutbacks in the energy industry and a strong dollar that makes US products pricier overseas.

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