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 user 2005-02-24 at 9:34:00 am Views: 69
  • #10497
    Jobless Claims Rise, Factory Orders

    Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods fell 0.9 percent in
    January, the worst showing in three months, as demand for commercial aircraft
    fell sharply, the government reported Thursday.

    The Commerce Department said that demand for durable
    goods, items expected to last three or more years, dropped by $1.7 billion last
    month to a seasonally adjusted $200.4 billion. The weakness was led by a 27.1
    percent plunge in orders for commercial aircraft.

    The overall decline was larger than expected, but it
    followed two months of strong gains. Orders were up 1.4 percent in December
    after an even larger 2 percent rise in November. They fell by 1 percent in

    In a second report, the
    Labor Department said that the number of Americans filing new claims for
    unemployment benefits rose by 9,000 to 312,000. The slight increase had been
    expected given that weekly claims had been declining in recent weeks. The
    four-week moving average of claims, designed to smooth out week-to-week
    volatility, dropped by 3,250 to a four-year low of 308,750.

    Economists said the level of
    claims indicates that the job market is continuing to gain strength after a
    prolonged stretch of weakness.

    Analysts had expected some
    cooling off in factory orders in January, given that the series is extremely
    volatile and there had been strong gains in the previous two months. But the
    extent of the decline took them by surprise.

    The U.S. manufacturing sector
    suffered the most in the 2000 recession and has struggled to regain its footing
    since that time. Nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs have been lost as U.S.
    factories have faced rising competition from foreign competitors.

    For January, the big drop in
    orders reflected a decline of $2.17 billion in demand for commercial aircraft
    and parts, which fell to $5.84 billion last month. The 27.1 percent drop in this
    category followed a 16.8 percent decline in December.

    Orders for autos and auto parts
    were also down, dropping 3.8 percent to $38.15 billion. Analysts had expected a
    slowdown in this area as auto dealers struggle to reduce a buildup of unsold

    Excluding transportation, durable
    goods orders rose by 0.8 percent last month following a 2.8 percent surge in

    Demand for primary metals such as
    steel rose by 1.6 percent while demand for kitchen appliances and other
    electrical equipment shot up a record 13 percent.

    Demand for computers and related
    electronics products dropped by 1.2 percent while demand for machinery of
    various types edged up 0.3 percent.

    Non-defense capital goods, a
    category that is closely tracked because it can reveal business plans to expand
    and modernize, edged up a slight 0.2 percent in January after having fallen 0.7
    percent in December