The factory sector bounced back strongly in January, with durable goods orders up a very strong 4.9 percent. Aircraft did add to the gain but when excluding transportation equipment, durable orders still rose 1.8 percent. And core capital goods orders, which had been weakening, bounced back strongly with a 3.9 percent gain.
Machinery posted big gains in the month especially for new orders as did computers and fabricated metals. Motor vehicles showed strength in both orders and shipments.
Total shipments jumped 1.9 percent in the month, though shipments of core capital goods, held down by prior weakness in orders, fell 0.4 percent to open the first quarter on a down note. But a positive in the report is a 0.1 percent dip in inventories which, together with the rise in shipments, pulls down the inventory-to-shipments ratio to a leaner 1.64 from 1.67. And unfilled orders, after contracting sharply in December, inched 0.1 percent ahead in January.
This report is healthy but January’s strength may prove to be a one-hit wonder for a sector that is getting hurt by weak exports and perhaps by slowing domestic demand.