U.S. companies are sending new positive signals about shipping, increasing orders for capital goods other than aircraft in August 4.1 percent over the previous month, the Commerce Department reported Friday.
Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods declined 1.3 percent last month because of a drop in aircraft orders. But excluding airlines and autos, orders rose 2 percent - the best showing in five months.
The Commerce Department reported strong gains in demand for primary metals such as steel, and for heavy machinery and computers. Orders for transportation equipment fell 10.3 percent, mainly because of a sharp drop in orders for commercial aircraft and parts.
By The Numbers: JOC-ECRI Industrial Price Index.
Durable-goods orders are a key gauge of business spending and an indicator of transportation volumes, which have been rising in the wake of the recession.
The Association of American Railroads said this week that intermodal traffic hit an all-time high in the week ending Sept. 18, with volume up 16.9 percent from the comparable week in 2009 and up 2.4 percent from the 2008 week. Rail carload traffic also has been up, reflecting strong demand for materials used in manufacturing.
The Commerce Department said August shipments of manufactured durable goods slipped 1.5 percent after a 2.5 percent July increase. Unfilled orders decreased 0.1 percent - driven by a 0.6 percent drop in transportation equipment orders -- after a 0.1 percent July decrease.
Inventories of manufactured durable goods rose 0.4 percent, the eighth straight monthly increase. The volatile transportation sector, dominated by aircraft manufacturing, had the largest inventory increase, 0.7 percent.
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