Gauge of investment plans flat, orders for durables up

WASHINGTON, Thu Oct 25, 2012 – A gauge of planned business spending was flat in September, a sign that heightened uncertainty is weighing on factories although new orders for long-lasting manufactured goods increased during the month.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday that non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, was unchanged last month at $60.3 billion. That was short of economists’ expectations for a 0.7 percent gain.

Many economists believe companies are holding back investments due to fears the U.S. Congress could fail to avert sharp tax hikes and spending cuts in 2013, which threaten to send the U.S. economy back into recession.

The reading on investment plans was part of a larger report on long-lasting factory goods, which showed new durable goods orders posting their biggest gain last month since January 2010.

New orders for durables rose 9.9 percent, partially reversing a sharp loss in August. Wild fluctuations in aircraft orders have generated much of the volatility.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected orders for durable goods – items from toasters to aircraft that are meant to last at least three years – to rise 7.1 percent.

Boeing received 143 orders in September, up from just one in August, according to information posted on the plane maker’s website.

Factory orders post largest fall since recession; gains in orders outside transporation

WASHINGTON, Thu Oct 4, 2012 – Demand for U.S. factory goods in August fell by the most since January 2009, but the second straight month of gains in orders outside transportation hinted at a less rapid loss of momentum in manufacturing activity.

The Commerce Department said new orders for manufactured goods tumbled 5.2 percent – the biggest drop since the recession – dragged down by a slump in demand for transportation equipment that was telegraphed in last week’s report on orders for long-lasting manufactured goods.

Factory orders had risen 2.8 percent in July and economists had expected them to drop 5.8 percent in August. Excluding transportation, orders rose 0.7 percent in August after rising by the same margin the prior month.

Manufacturing has carried the economic recovery and while activity has cooled significantly in recent months, there are so far little signs of a hard landing.

The Institute for Supply Management’s index of national manufacturing activity last month climbed above the 50 mark – which separates contraction from expansion – after three straight months below 50.

The Commerce Department report showed orders for transportation equipment tumbled 34.9 percent in August on sharply weak orders for civilian and defense aircraft.

Factory orders post surprise fall in April

WASHINGTON, Mon Jun 4, 2012 – New orders for factory goods fell in April for the third time in four months as demand slipped for everything from cars and machinery to computers, the latest worrisome sign for the economy.

The Commerce Department said on Monday orders for manufactured goods dropped 0.6 percent during the month. The government also revised its estimate for new orders in March to show a steeper decline.

Economists had forecast orders rising 0.2 percent in April.

The report showed broad weakness in a sector that has carried the economic recovery, adding to a growing body of soft economic data in the United States.

“Obviously it’s a slowdown in the economy,” said Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania.

The Labor Department on Friday reported that job creation slowed in May for the fourth straight month. Also that day, the Institute for Supply Management said the pace of growth in manufacturing slowed modestly in May, although the ISM’s own gauge of new orders rose to its highest in over a year.

The Commerce Department report showed new orders for motor vehicles and parts fell 0.5 percent in April.

An increase in new orders for civilian aircraft buoyed the overall transportation sector.

Outside transportation, orders dropped 1.1 percent, with machinery down 2.9 percent and orders for computers and electronics off by 0.8 percent. The government also revised downward its estimate for new orders of long-lasting manufactured goods in April.

U.S. stock prices declined as investors fretted about signs of economic weakness around the globe and Europe’s intensifying debt crisis.

Factory orders for March suffer largest drop in three years

WASHINGTON, Wed May 2, 2012 – New orders for U.S. factory goods in March recorded their biggest decline in three years as demand for transportation equipment and a range of other goods slumped, government data showed on Wednesday.

The Commerce Department said orders for manufactured goods dropped 1.5 percent after a revised 1.1 percent rise in February.

Economists had forecast orders falling 1.6 percent after a previously reported 1.3 percent increase in February.

While the report showed broad weakness in March in a sector that has carried the economic recovery, anecdotal evidence suggests factories continued to expand as the second quarter started.

The Institute for Supply Management’s index of national manufacturing activity climbed to a 10-month high in April, with a measure of new orders received by factories the highest in a year, data showed on Tuesday.

The Commerce Department report showed orders for transportation equipment tumbled 12.6 percent in March on weak orders for civilian aircraft. Orders for motor vehicles and parts was flat in March after rising 1 percent in February.

Auto sales surged early in the year reflecting pent-up demand from households after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused disruptions to auto production in 2011 and left dealers without models that consumers wanted to buy.

Industry data on Tuesday showed motor vehicle sales increased at an annual rate of 14.4 million units in April after rising at a 14.3 million unit pace in March, suggesting fundamental strength in the sector.

Strong auto sales buoyed consumer spending in the first quarter and contributed significantly to the economy’s 2.2 percent growth pace during that period.

GE profit, revenue top Wall Street forecast; orders up 20 percent

FAIRFIELD, Conn., Fri Apr 20, 2012 – General Electric Co. topped Wall Street’s profit and revenue forecasts for the first quarter, helped by strong demand for energy equipment and railroad locomotives.

The largest U.S. conglomerate said industrial orders had risen 20 percent in the quarter and that selling prices had improved in most of businesses. This should help CEO Jeff Immelt achieve his goal of boosting profit margins by a 0.5 percentage point this year.

“We witnessed broad-based strength in orders across all our infrastructure businesses and in both equipment and services,” Immelt said in a statement.

GE shares rose 0.9 percent to $19.31 in premarket trading.

Investors noted that the company had notched solid organic growth — a measure that factors out the influence of acquisitions or fluctuations in exchange rates.

“Organic revenue growth in the industrial business was great at 11 percent,” said Jack De Gan, chief investment officer of Harbor Advisory Corp., a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, firm that owns GE shares. “GE has been a disappointment for a long time … (and) is now finally going to get back to where its earnings can compound at a rate better than the S&P for a while.”

As of Thursday’s close, GE shares were up 6.6 percent for the past year, trailing the 10 percent rise of the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index.

Investors said the report was a good sign for the rest of the industrial sector. Fellow blue-chip companies United Technologies Corp., 3M Co. and Caterpillar Inc. are all due to report results next week.

GE “beat on revenues, which they haven’t really been able to do in a long time, and that really bodes well for industrials in particular,” said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst of Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.