Census report shows decline in capital goods orders

Factory orders for capital goods declined in April.
Factory orders for capital goods declined in April.
New data released from the U.S. Census Bureau today showed a continued decline in new orders of nondefense capital goods in April, a category that includes farm machinery and equipment.

Nondefense new orders for capital goods last month fell by $1 billion to $49.5 billion - a decline of 2 percent. Shipments decreased $1.2 billion to $56.9 billion, for another 2 percent decline.

Unfilled orders for capital goods decreased $7.4 billion or 1.7 percent to $432.4 billion. Inventories decreased by $0.1 billion or 0.1 percent to $143.0 billion.

The overall picture for manufacturers was slightly better last month, giving economists hope that the worst of the recession is now over.

Manufacturers indicated their outlook is improving slightly and big declines in industrial production have eased back. Meanwhile, construction spending increased slightly in March and there were indications that the worst of the housing slump has ended.

But economists said that the Census figures released Thursday were hardly a sign of a major swing - more like gradual, slow-moving improvement.

"The absolute worst is over, but what we have now is still quite bad," said Ian Shepherdson, an economist at High Frequency Economics, according to the New York Times.