- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 26 (UPI) — The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new orders for big ticket items during February posted their third decline in four months with orders for commercial aircraft and parts sinking.

The government said orders for durable goods fell 1.2 percent to $170.2 billion in February after rising 1.9 percent in January and falling 0.4 percent in December and 1.2 percent in November.

Economists on Wall Street were expecting orders for durable goods — items meant to last at least 3 years — to decline 1.5 percent during February.

Durable goods orders reflect the new orders placed with domestic manufacturers for immediate and future delivery of factory hard goods. Investors watch the report because it usually dictates how various types of investments will perform.

Orders for durable goods show how busy factories will be in the months to come, as manufacturers work to fill those orders. The data not only provides insight to demand for things like refrigerators and cars, but also business investment going forward.

The latest report from the Commerce Department showed orders for durable goods excluding transportation equipment fell 2.1 percent after rising 1.2 percent in January and 1.1 percent in December. Economists on Wall Street were expecting orders excluding transportation, to decline 1 percent during the month.

Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a proxy for future investment, fell 2.8 percent after jumping 5.4 percent in January and slipping 0.1 percent in December.

Shipments, which the government uses to help construct quarterly gross domestic product measures, fell 3 percent after climbing 3.5 percent a month earlier and falling 1.4 percent in December.

The Commerce Department said inventories of durable goods slipped 0.1 percent after slipping the same 0.1 percent a month earlier.

Bookings for commercial aircraft and parts sank 26.4 percent after falling 24.5 percent a month earlier and orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components fell 1.9 percent after falling 2 percent a month earlier.

Orders for motor vehicles and parts fell 1.5 percent after jumping 9.9 percent in January while orders for computers and electronic products fell 2.9 percent after rising 2.1 percent a month earlier.

The report also showed communications equipment orders fell 4.4 percent after surging 32.6 percent in January and government spending for defense equipment jumped 28 percent after declining 3.4 percent a month earlier.

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