U.S. Durable Goods Orders Slumped in March



Orders for U.S. durable goods fell in March by the most in seven months as demand slumped for commercial aircraft and business investment cooled.

Bookings for goods meant to last at least three years decreased 5.7 percent after a revised 4.3 percent gain the prior month that was smaller than previously estimated, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 78 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 3 percent decline. Orders excluding transportation equipment, which is volatile month to month, unexpectedly fell for a second month.

Weakness in overseas markets and lower commodities prices have restrained demand at some companies such as Caterpillar Inc. (CAT), showing manufacturing slowed as the first quarter drew to a close. At the same time, sustained motor vehicle sales and a pickup in the housing market may help keep production from faltering.

"Manufacturing ended the quarter on a very weak note," said Brian Jones, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who projected a 6 percent decrease in March orders. "Not only was the March number weak but we lost on the prior revision."