WASHINGTON — U.S. durable goods orders were weak in February in a second down month, but there might have been extenuating circumstances from a labor strike at a supplier of General Motors Corp.
February durable goods orders posted a 1.7% decline but the drop was due entirely to machinery, autos, and auto parts, sectors that might have been affected by the strike.
Orders excluding transportation were down 2.6% and down in four of the last five months. Ex-military orders posted a 1.6% loss in their second drop, so the report is still weak.
Transportation orders were up 0.6% and motor vehicle and parts orders were down 2.7%. Boeing Co. reported 125 new orders for commercial aircraft after 65 in February, but nonmilitary aircraft posted just a 5.4% gain in another anomaly. Nonmilitary capital goods orders excluding aircraft were down 2.6% in February, their biggest drop since a 3.0% decline in October 2007.
The main reason orders fell was a 13.3% decline in machinery orders, the biggest drop ever — the records date from 1992 due to the transition to a new industry classification system. This could be another strike effect.
Most other areas gained slightly: computers and electronic products posted up 2.3%, electrical equipment rose 1.6%, and primary metals gained 1.0%.
Inventories were up 0.5%, not surprising given a weak business environment.
Nonmilitary capital goods shipments fell 4.5%, overwhelming their slight January gain and suggesting a first-quarter retrenchment in business capital spending.