New orders for all factory goods was up 1.9% in March from February and saw a small upward revision to down 0.3% for February from January. Orders were higher due to increases in nondurables (up 1.1%) that were driven by petroleum and coals costs rising sharply (up 6.0%). Durable goods orders were up 2.6% on a boost from transportation (up 7.0%) that had solid lift from nondefense aircraft (up 31.0%) and defense aircraft (up 17.7%). Also keeping orders higher for transportation were motor vehicles and parts (up 1.5%) and ships and boats (up 20.9%).
“Core” durable goods — durables less civilian aircraft and defense capital goods — orders were up 0.7% in March from February, building on a small increase in February of up 0.2%.
Unfilled orders were up 0.2% from the prior month and inventories were up 0.9%. Some of the surveys of manufacturing suggested that companies were adding to inventories to ensure materials and product on hand to meet future demand. Shipments were up 0.7% month-over-month. The calculation for capital goods shipments excluding aircraft — which can serve as a proxy for business fixed investment in GDP — softened in March, consistent with the FOMC’s view that business spending was less vigorous in the first quarter.
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