Fleet Management

Economic Watch: Durable Good Orders Up, Shipments Fall; Consumers Upbeat

May 27, 2014

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UPDATED -- Shipments of manufactured durable goods in the U.S. fell in April while new orders increased, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday.

Shipments for these items, designed to last three years or more, fell 0.2% from March, following a 1.3% gain. The decline was led by a 1% drop in transportation shipments.

New orders posted its third straight monthly hike, picking up 0.8% in April from March and following a 3.6% jump. It was led by a gain in new transportation orders, increasing 2.3% from March to April. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.1% while excluding defense new orders fell 0.8%.

A closely watched indicator of future business investment, new orders for non-defense capital goods, excluding aircraft, fell 1.2% in April from a revised 4.7% increase in March, the biggest gain since November. There are concerns by some economists this could be an indictor of weaker than expected overall second quarter economic performance, following a sluggish first quarter.

Shipments of non-defense capital goods, excluding aircraft, declined 0.4% during the same time, following a 2.1% increase in March

New orders and shipments for manufactured durable goods were 3% or just slightly higher in April, compared to the first four months of last year.

Some March numbers were revised by the Commerce Department following its orginal report.

“Headline orders growth remains positive at the start of the third quarter but the momentum has clearly slowed,” said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at the investment firm Sterne Agee. “From an investment standpoint, after one outsized rise in March, business spending has fallen back into negative territory, the third monthly decline in the past six.”

She said despite expectations of a ramp-up in corporate investment, businesses still appear to be sidelined as we head further into the second quarter.

“The expectation of a rebound after significant weakness at the start of the year has failed to come to fruition in either retail spending or business investment, at least so far, undermining expectations of 3% to 4% [growth] in the near term,” Piegza said. “Unless significant momentum is gained in May and June, the economy is going to not only fail to meet expectations of above-trend growth, but struggle to meet current trend growth of 1.5% to 2%.”

Consumer Confidence

The private research group, The Conference Board, and its Consumer Confidence Index, which had decreased in April, released a new report Tuesday, showing it improved moderately in May.

The index now stands at 83, up from 81.7 in April. The Present Situation Index increased to 80.4 from 78.5, while the Expectations Index edged up to 84.8 from 83.9 in April.

“Consumer confidence improved slightly in May, as consumers assessed current conditions, in particular the labor market, more favorably,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Expectations regarding the short-term outlook for the economy, jobs, and personal finances were also more upbeat. In fact, the percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to grow over the next six months is the highest since December 2007, at 20.2%. Thus, despite last month’s decline, consumers’ confidence appears to be growing.” 

Updated adds consumer confidence report.

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