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Economy in Brief

U.S. Durable Goods Orders Ticked Up
by Tom Moeller October 29, 2008

During September, new orders for durable goods ticked up 0.8% after falling 5.5% during August, a decline revised from the -4.5% figure reported initially. Though the September rise in orders beat Consensus expectations for a 1.0% decline, there where few, if any, areas of strength. The gain mostly reflected a 21.8% (-16.6% y/y) jump in new orders for aircraft & parts that offset most of a decline during August. (Nondefense aircraft orders rose 29.7% (-34.1% y/y).

Highlighting the weakness in durable goods orders last month was a 1.1% decline in new orders less the transportation sector altogether. That followed a 4.1% drop during August, initially reported at down 3.0%. The September decline about matched Consensus expectations but during the last three months, orders less the transportation sector fell at a 19.0% annual rate.

The rise in aircraft orders did lift overall orders for nondefense capital goods by 0.8%, but that followed a little-revised 7.7% plunge during August. Without aircraft, nondefense capital goods orders fell 1.4% after 2.2% drop during August. These declines lowered the three-month growth rate to -12.4%, the worst since early last year. During the last ten years there has been an 80% correlation between the y/y gain in nondefense capital goods orders and the rise in equipment & software spending in the GDP accounts. The correlation of the GDP figure with capital goods shipments is, as one would expect, a larger 92%.

The industry detail highlights the recent weakness in factory orders. Orders for machinery ticked up just 0.5% after a 6.4% drop during August. That left the three-month growth rate at -9.5%.Primary metals orders fell sharply for the second consecutive month with a 4.5% (+1.6% y/y) drop which followed a downwardly revised 12.5% August plunge. New orders for electrical equipment increased 1.5% (1.1% y/y) after a 3.5% August decline. On a three-month basis these orders were down at a 35.0% annual rate.

New orders for computers & electronic products continued on their weaker trend-line with a 1.4% drop last month. On a three-month basis these orders fell at a 15.0% annual rate after their 2.1% decline during all of last year. Orders for just computers & related products fell 2.8% and on a three-month basis they were off at a 47.9% annual rate. New orders for communications equipment also have been quite weak and they fell 14.6% last month. Three-month growth was -36.6% (AR) after last year's 7.5% decline.

Reflecting past weakness in new orders was a 0.2% rise in overall shipments of durable goods which made up little of a 4.2% August fall. During the last three months growth was a negative 7.6% (AR) after last year's negligible 0.1% uptick. For comparison, industrial production of durable goods during the last three months fell at a 13.5%. During the last ten years there has been a 62% correlation between the three-month change in shipments of durable goods and the change in durables industrial production. Less transportation, shipments of durable goods fell 0.4% following a 2.9% August drop. Three-month growth fell to -4.8% (AR).

Inventories of durable goods rose just 0.4% (8.1% y/y), the weakest monthly increase since last October. Three-month growth eased slightly to a still strong 8.8%. Less transportation, inventories rose a weaker 0.5% and the three-month growth rate eased slightly to 9.4% (AR) after the 1.4% rise during 2007.

Addressing the Credit Crisis is a speech given earlier this month by Dallas Fed President Richard W. Fisher and it can be found here.

NAICS Classification (%) September August Y/Y 2007 2006 2005
Durable Goods Orders 0.8 -5.5 -3.6 1.4 6.2 10.2
    Excluding Transportation -1.1 -4.1 -0.6 -0.3 9.1 9.1
Nondefense Capital Goods 0.8 -7.7 -7.2 3.5 9.4 17.3
 Excluding Aircraft -1.4 -2.2 0.5 -2.7 10.7 11.6
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