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US factory orders eked out a small rise in March but still fell short of Wall Street’s expectations, indicating a softening in the manufacturing sector after a strong read in February.

New orders for manufactured goods in March increased 0.2 per cent, or $0.8bn, to $478.2bn, according to data from the US Commerce Department. That missed the 0.4 per cent increase expected by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The pace at which new orders for manufactured durable goods rose for the third consecutive month, up 0.9 per cent in March but still markedly slower than the 2.4 per cent increase in February.

That increase was driven by a 2.6 per cent rise in transportation equipment, up $2.2bn to $83.6bn for the month, the bureau reported. New orders for non-durable goods, however, dropped 0.5 per cent to $238.7bn.

Alongside the softer-than-expected growth, however, the agency also revised upwards the overall growth in new orders for manufactured goods notched in February, from its initial report of a 1 per cent rise to a 1.2 per cent increase.

Last week, government data showed US economic growth slowing to an annual rate of just 0.7 per cent in the opening quarter of the year. The slowing growth during the March quarter was noted by the Federal Reserve yesterday, though the central bank said it believed the softness was “transitory” in the face of solid consumption growth and inflation running close to its target.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.

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