Friday, May 29, 2009

Durable-Goods Orders Post 1.9% Gain in April 2009

By JUSTIN LAHART U.S. orders for big-ticket items jumped in April, offering more evidence that the manufacturing slump has abated. But a sharp downward revision to the March figures damped hopes that manufacturers are on the edge of recovery. The Commerce Department said orders for durable goods -- long-lasting items that include everything from machine tools to treadmills -- rose 1.9% last month to a seasonally adjusted $161.45 billion. Much of the gain was driven by a 5.4% rise in orders for transportation equipment. Overall orders fell 2.1% in March, a steeper decline than the initially reported 0.8% drop. Even so, the decrease in orders that began in the fall appears to have ended. "We've bounced around this low point for a couple of months now," said Nomura Securities economist David Resler. "If you look at the level of orders, it's starting to look like a bottom." Orders for capital goods excluding defense items and aircraft, which economists use as a proxy for business spending on new equipment, fell 1.5%. But the first increase in orders for metals and metal products in nine months suggested that manufacturers have run down their inventories of raw materials to the point where they need to buy more. Separately, the U.S. Labor Department reported that the number of workers filing new unemployment claims fell 13,000 to 623,000 in the week ended May 23. Much of the jump in claims that came earlier this month, as workers furloughed by the Chrysler LLC bankruptcy filing signed up for unemployment benefits, has reversed itself. But with bankruptcy looking likely for General Motors Corp., claims filings could jump again. The four-week average, used to smooth the volatile initial-jobless-claims figures, fell 3,000 to 626,750. But the total number of workers filing for claims hit a new high of 6.8 million. Meanwhile, sales of new single-family homes rose 0.3% last month to a 352,000 annual rate, the Commerce Department said. But sales in March fell 3%, more than the initially reported 0.6% decline. Sales rose 10% in February. Write to Justin Lahart at

No comments: