US durable goods orders rise 3.3 percent in April
BY MARTIN CRUTSINGER | AP Economics Writer May 24, 2013 8:44AM
U.S. orders for long-lasting manufactured goods rose 3.3 percent in April, buoyed by more demand for aircraft and stronger business investment. | AP Photo
WASHINGTON — U.S. orders for long-lasting manufactured goods rebounded in April, buoyed by more demand for aircraft and stronger business investment. The gains suggest economic growth may be holding steady this spring.
Orders for durable goods, items expected to last at least three years, rose 3.3 percent last month from March, the Commerce Department said Friday. That followed a 5.9 decline in March.
A measure of business investment plans increased 1.2 percent. And the government revised the March figure to show a 0.9 percent gain, instead of a slight decrease.
Companies ordered more machinery and electronic products last month, typically signs of confidence. More spending by businesses could ease fears that manufacturing could drag on the economy later this year.
Factories had been seeing fewer orders at the start of the year, in part because slower global growth had reduced demand for U.S. exports. Economists had also worried that across-the-board federal spending cuts and higher taxes might prompt businesses to cut back on orders.
Paul Ashworth, an economist with Capital Economics, said the April report suggests economic growth is holding up. He predicts growth in the April-June quarter will be at a rate of 2 percent to 2.5 percent. That’s not much lower than the 2.5 percent rate reported for the January-March quarter.
Still, the payoff from the pickup in business investment may not come until the end of the quarter. That’s because the government looks at shipments when it measures the gross domestic product, not orders. And shipments of goods that signal investment plans fell in April, reflecting weaker demand at the start of the year.
“Business investment appears to have started the second quarter on a weak note but should rebound over the final two months of the quarter,” he said.
The April increase pushed total orders to $222.6 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis. That is 6.5 percent above the level of a year ago.
Excluding the volatile transportation category, orders rose 1.3 percent in April. That followed a 1.7 percent decline in March.