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US factory orders decline in February

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New orders for U.S.-made goods fell in February, likely weighed down by unusually cold weather, although manufacturing remains strong as economic recovery gains strength amid improving backdrop of public health and massive fiscal stimulus.

FILE PHOTO: Line workers spot weld frame parts on the flex line at the Nissan Motor Co auto manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, US August 23, 2018. REUTERS / William DeShazer / File Photo

The Commerce Department said Monday that factory orders fell 0.8% after rising 2.7% in January. Economists polled by Reuters were forecasting a 0.5% drop in factory orders in February. Orders were up 1.0% year over year.

Severe weather covered large parts of the country, including winter storms in Texas and other parts of the densely populated southern region, during the second half of February, disrupting consumer spending, production in factories, house building and sales.

But that’s the whole rearview mirror. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said last week that its national factory activity index jumped in March to its highest level since December 1983. The manufacturing sector, which accounts for 11.9% of the economy America, was supported by a shift in demand towards goods and services during the pandemic.

Job growth accelerated sharply in March, the government reported on Friday.

Economic growth is expected to take off this year, fueled by the White House’s massive $ 1.9 trillion relief program and the reopening of non-essential businesses as more Americans are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Factory goods orders in February were dampened by lower demand for machinery, computers and electronics, as well as primary metals. But orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components have increased.

Unfilled factory orders rose 0.8% in February after gaining 0.2% in January, suggesting a rebound in demand in the coming months.

The Commerce Department also reported that orders for non-defense capital goods, excluding aircraft, which are seen as a measure of companies’ spending plans on equipment, fell 0.9%. in February instead of falling 0.8% as reported last month.

Shipments of basic capital goods, which are used to calculate business capital expenditure in the GDP report, fell 1.1%. They would have already fallen by 1.0% in February.

Business spending on equipment rose sharply for a second consecutive quarter in the fourth quarter, contributing to the economy’s 4.3% annualized growth rate during that period.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Edited by Chizu Nomiyama

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