WASHINGTON – Factories saw orders for big-ticket goods jump 5.9% in July, the most in 10 months, an encouraging sign that many manufacturers are holding up to the stresses caused by a housing slump and a credit crunch, the Commerce Dept. reported today.
The department reported a sizable increase in new orders for "durable" goods followed a 1.9% rise in June. Durable goods are costly manufactured items expected to last at least three years.
The barometer of manufacturing activity was better than the 1% increase economists expected, and gains were widespread, the report stated. Orders went up for machinery, automobiles, metal products, airplanes and communications equipment. That blunted a drop in demand for computers, as well as electrical equipment and appliances, the reported added.
In the manufacturing report, orders for automobiles rose 9.8% in July, the most since January 2003. Demand for primary metals, including steel, increased 7.9%, the biggest rise since July 2004. Orders for communications equipment soared 20.7%, the most since March 2006. Demand for airplanes for commercial use rose 12.6%. Airplane orders for defense purposes increased 15.8%.
Demand for computers, however, dropped 4% and orders for electrical equipment and appliances fell 1.2%.
Overall, the figures suggest that capital spending by businesses is weathering the financial storm so far, said the Commerce Dept. Credit problems, however, worsened in August, so upcoming reports on manufacturing will offer more insight into companies' spending.