New orders for manufactured durable goods dropped 3.6 percent in April after rising 4.4 percent in March, the Department of Commerce said Wednesday.
The $7.1 billion drop in orders in April tracked a 1 percent, or $2 billion, decline in durable goods shipments after four consecutive months of increasing freight.
Transportation equipment showed the largest swing, with orders decreasing 9.5 percent, shipments down 3 percent and inventories up 1 percent in April.
Durable goods inventories hit their highest level in April since 1992, increasing $3.2 billion to $350.5 billion in value, the U.S. Census Bureau said in its monthly report.
The April results may indicate more moderate manufacturing growth after a strong end to the first quarter, with March exceeding economists’ expectations.
Businesses ordered fewer cars, computers and less machinery and metals in April.
Supply chain disruptions that followed the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in March may account for some of the decline in automotive demand.
However, the buildup in durable goods inventories, which have been rising for 16 straight months, indicates many retail pipelines may be filling up.
The inventory buildup slowed in April, rising only 0.9 percent compared with a 1.7 percent increase in March, according to the Census Bureau figures.