Durable goods orders took a surprising tumble in April, dipping 1.3% instead of rising 7-9% as predicted by economists.
The volatile transportation category was responsible for most of the decline, falling 6.7%. Automotive orders fell 2.6%, sliding for a second time in the past three months as production slowed due to supply issues with semiconductor chips. Commercial aircraft orders leapt 17.4%, after declining 26.8% last month, indicating that the industry is beginning to recover from lost orders during the pandemic. Minus transportation, durable goods orders gained 1.0% in April.
Core capital goods orders–orders excluding defense and transportation and considered an indicator for business investment–increased 2.3% following a 1.6% gain in March.
In a separate government report today, real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 6.4% in the first quarter of 2021, good news for a recovering economy.
Following is the April advance report from the U.S. Census Bureau on durable goods manufacturers’ shipments, inventories and orders:
New orders for manufactured durable goods in April decreased $3.2 billion or 1.3% to $246.2 billion. This decrease, down following 11 consecutive monthly increases, followed a 1.3% March increase. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 1.0%. Excluding defense, new orders were virtually unchanged. Transportation equipment, down two consecutive months, drove the decrease by $4.9 billion or 6.7% to $68.9 billion.
Shipments of manufactured durable goods in April, up 11 of the last 12 months, increased $1.4 billion or 0.6% to $248.7 billion. This followed a 2.7% March increase. Primary metals, also up 11 of the last 12 months, led the increase by $0.6 billion or 2.7% to $21.6 billion.
Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods in April, up three consecutive months, increased $1.9 billion or 0.2% to $1,197.0 billion. This followed a 0.5% March increase. Fabricated metal products, up 11 consecutive months, drove the increase by $3.1 billion or 3.4% to $95.9 billion.
Inventories of manufactured durable goods in April, up three consecutive months, increased $2.2 billion or 0.5% to $441.6 billion. This followed a 1.0% March increase. Transportation equipment, also up three consecutive months, led the increase by $0.9 billion or 0.6% to $149.4 billion.
Nondefense new orders for capital goods in April increased $2.7 billion or 3.5% to $80.1 billion. Shipments increased $3.1 billion or 4.1% to $78.9 billion. Unfilled orders increased $1.2 billion or 0.2% to $721.9 billion. Inventories decreased $0.3 billion or 0.2% to $196.4 billion.
Defense new orders for capital goods in April decreased $3.2 billion or 25.8% to $9.1 billion. Shipments increased $0.6 billion or 4.8% to $12.2 billion. Unfilled orders decreased $3.1 billion or 1.6% to $191.9 billion. Inventories increased $0.1 billion or 0.7% to $20.9 billion.
Revised and Recently Benchmarked March Data
Revised seasonally adjusted March figures for all manufacturing industries were: new orders, $487.8 billion (revised from $486.6 billion); shipments, $485.8 billion (revised from $485.4 billion); unfilled orders, $1,195.1 billion (revised from $1,194.2 billion) and total inventories, $721.0 billion (revised from $721.1 billion).
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