Rise in Orders Keeps U.S. Factories Humming Along

Factory Orders
Matt York/AP

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON -- New orders for U.S. factory goods rose for a third straight month in April, pointing to strength in manufacturing and the broader economy.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday new orders for manufactured goods increased 0.7 percent. March's orders were revised to show a 1.5 percent increase instead of the previously reported 0.9 percent rise.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new orders received by factories gaining 0.5 percent.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Manufacturing is growing after moderating a bit during a very cold winter. It is likely to continue expanding, with a survey Monday showing new orders at the nation's factories at their highest level in five months in May.

Businesses are also starting to rebuild inventories after hunkering down in the first quarter as they worked through piles of stocks accumulated in the second half of 2013.

The factory orders report showed inventories rose 0.4 percent in April, while shipments rose for a third consecutive month. The inventories-to-shipments ratio was unchanged at 1.30.

Orders excluding the volatile transportation category increased 0.5 percent in April as bookings for primary metals, electrical equipment, appliances and components and capital goods rose. That was the third straight month of gains.

Unfilled orders at factories increased 0.9 percent, the largest gain since November. Order backlogs have increased in 12 of the last 13 months.

The department also said orders for durable goods, manufactured products expected to last three years and more, rose 0.6 percent instead of the 0.8 percent gain reported last month.

Durable goods orders excluding transportation increased 0.3 percent instead of the previously reported 0.1 percent gain.

Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft -- seen as a measure of business confidence and spending plans -- fell 1.2 percent as reported last month.