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Economy in Brief

U.S. Factory Orders Fall While Inventories Build
by Tom Moeller  March 5, 2012

Orders in the manufacturing sector fell 1.0% (+7.4% y/y) during January and reversed much of a little-revised 1.4% December jump. The decline owed to a 3.7% fall in orders for durable goods. That was little-revised from the advance report of a 4.0% drop indicated last week. The shortfall reflected much-lower orders for aircraft. Orders for nondurable goods offset some of that decline with a 1.3% rise (6.5% y/y). That reflected a 3.3% jump in oil refinery shipments (8.0% y/y), which for nondurables equal orders. Excluding oil shipments rose 0.6% (5.9% y/y).

Unfilled orders rose 0.6% (9.5% y/y) led by a 1.8% rise (14.8% y/y) in nondefense aircraft. Less transportation altogether, backlogs rose 0.2% (9.5% y/y) paced by a 0.6% rise (24.4% y/y) in machinery and a 0.8% gain (17.3% y/y) in electrical equipment. Order backlogs of furniture rose just 1.9% y/y while computers were unchanged. Shipments from the manufacturing sector rose 0.9% (7.6% y/y).

Inventories in the factory sector increased another 0.6% (8.8% y/y) during January as durable goods inventories rose 0.6% (10.4% y/y). Electrical equipment inventories swelled by 2.9% (6.3% y/y) while machinery inventories rose 1.5% (14.1% y/y). Nondurables inventories rose 0.6% (6.4% y/y) reflecting a 2.2% (16.3% y/y) jump in oil. Apparel inventories also were strong and rose 1.6% (18.1% y/y) but basic chemicals ticked up just 0.1% (3.6% y/y).

The factory sector figures are available in Haver's USECON database. The expectation figure is in AS1REPNA.

Factory Sector - NAICS Classification (%) Jan Dec Nov Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Orders -1.0 1.4 2.2 7.4 12.2 12.9 -21.7
Shipments 0.9 0.8 0.2 7.6 11.3 8.6 -18.5
Inventories 0.6 0.2 0.4 8.8 9.5 8.7 -6.8
Unfilled Orders 0.6 1.5 1.3 9.5 9.7 3.9 -15.2
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