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US Factory Orders Rise for First Time in 8 Months

US factory orders rose in March after seven consecutive monthly declines, offering some evidence that manufacturing headwinds were slowly abating at the end of the first quarter.

Factory orders rose 2.1 percent in March, following a 0.1 percent decrease in February that was originally reported as a 0.2 percent gain, the Commerce Department reported on Monday. A median estimate of economists forecast a gain of 2 percent.

Excluding transportation equipment, new orders were flat in March.

Declining energy prices and volatile international demand have caused many companies to delay or even scrap investment plans. Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft – a proxy for business investment – rose just 0.1 percent from February.

Shipments of non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, which is used to calculate gross domestic product, declined 0.4 percent in March after rising 0.2 percent the previous month.

Factory orders have increased just once in the last eight months. The halving of oil prices and broad slowdown in manufacturing activity weighed on factory orders in the first quarter. Last week the Commerce Department said gross domestic product expanded just 0.2 percent annually in the first quarter, well below forecasts.

Last week the Institute for Supply Management said manufacturing activity remained steady in April, as new orders and production levels rose at a faster rate, signaling an end to the most recent factory slowdown. ISM’s manufacturing PMI was unchanged at 51.5 in April.

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