Washington -- Orders placed with U.S. factories for durable goods declined in January for the first time in three months as a drop in demand for aircraft outweighed the biggest jump in orders for computers and other business equipment in 15 years, government figures showed yesterday.
Durable goods orders fell 1.3 percent last month after rising 6.3 percent in December, the Commerce Department said. December's gain was revised higher from a preliminary estimate to make it the largest monthly increase in seven years.
Orders for aircraft, ships and other transportation equipment fell 3.6 percent in January, dragging down the monthly total. At the same time, demand for business equipment ranging from computers to machine tools rose 12.3 percent, the biggest increase since February 1985.
That shows "manufacturing is healthy," said Greg Jones, chief economist with Briefing.com in Jackson, Wyoming. "We're really not seeing much evidence that higher interest rates have slowed manufacturing."
The decline for transportation equipment included a 2 percent drop in demand for commercial aircraft, a typically volatile category influenced by orders at Boeing Co.
In other transportation categories, orders for motor vehicles and parts and railroad equipment rose. January orders excluding transportation equipment decreased 0.5 percent after gaining 1.5 percent during December.
The overall decline in durable goods orders was the first since a 0.9 percent drop in October. At the same time, shipments of industrial machinery set a record in January, according to the report.
What's more, the category of orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft and parts -- a gauge of business investment -- rose 7.5 percent in January, the largest gain since July. Shipments of nondefense goods outside of aircraft, which influence the gross domestic product report, advanced a record 8.3 percent in January. In other categories, orders for electronics and electrical goods, which includes appliances, electronic components and audio equipment, fell 13.2 percent in January, while orders for primary metals rose 1.7 percent.