|Factory Orders - M/M change||2.1%||1.4% to 3.6%||2.1%||0.2%||-0.1%|
Boosted by aircraft and also by motor vehicles, factory orders rose an as-expected 2.1 percent in March. March's gain ends what were 7 straight declines as February, which was initially at plus 0.2 percent, is revised now to minus 0.1 percent. The 7 straight declines are the most striking evidence of how hard the manufacturing sector has been hit, by the strong dollar that weakens exports and also specific trouble in the energy sector due to the downturn in oil.
But in March, the sector got a big boost from civilian aircraft, an industry where big monthly swings are normal, but also from motor vehicle & parts where orders rose 6.0 percent in what is one of the very strongest gains of the recovery. Excluding transportation, however, orders were unchanged compared to only a 0.1 percent gain in February, with the latter revised down sharply from an initial reading of plus 0.8 percent.
Energy equipment rebounded 4.8 percent in the month but following a long streak of declines including an 18.5 percent drop in February. Industrial machinery was also down on the month. Other industries on the plus side include computers and defense capital goods.
Orders for capital goods in general were mixed, up only 0.1 percent on the core, which excludes aircraft, and extending their downward slope.
Other readings include a sizable 0.5 percent rise in shipments. Another plus is a small rise in unfilled orders which have been especially weak. Inventories held steady relative to sales, with the inventory-to-sales rate unchanged at 1.35.
The pop in March ends the first quarter on a positive note but the early indications on the second quarter, despite expectations of an outsized weather boost, have all been soft.
Market Consensus Before Announcement
Factory orders have been one of the most disappointing indicators on the calendar, falling in 6 out of the last 7 reports. But a 2.1 percent gain is expected for the March report based on the previously released 4.0 percent jump in the durable goods component that got a boost from not only aircraft but also motor vehicles. Still, a gain for March won't raise too much enthusiasm given the broad weakness seen in April's manufacturing surveys.
Factory orders represent the dollar level of new orders for both durable and nondurable goods. This report gives more complete information than the advance durable goods report which is released one or two weeks earlier in the month.
Investors want to keep their fingers on the pulse of the economy because it usually dictates how various types of investments will perform. The stock market likes to see healthy economic growth because that translates to higher corporate profits. The bond market prefers more moderate growth which is less likely to cause inflationary pressures. By tracking economic data like factory orders, investors will know what the economic backdrop is for these markets and their portfolios. The orders data show how busy factories will be in coming months as manufacturers work to fill those orders. This report provides insight to the demand for not only hard goods such as refrigerators and cars, but nondurables such as cigarettes and apparel. In addition to new orders, analysts monitor unfilled orders, an indicator of the backlog in production. Shipments reveal current sales. Inventories give a handle on the strength of current and future production. All in all, this report tells investors what to expect from the manufacturing sector, a major component of the economy and therefore a major influence on their investments.