US factory orders fall 2.9%, highlight sector’s weakness

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: New US factory orders slumped in December, fresh evidence of the weakness in the manufacturing sector hit by a strong dollar and slowing economies, official data showed on Thursday.

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Initial orders for US manufactured goods, which have fallen in four of the last five months, dropped 2.9 percent last month, following a 0.7 percent decline in November, the Commerce Department reported.

Orders were dragged lower in part by falling oil and natural gas prices that have led companies to scale back. Machinery orders tumbled 5.6 percent, including a 78.2 percent plunge in orders for mining, oil field and gas field equipment.

Computers and electronic products were another weak spot, with steep falls in orders for communications equipment.

In the volatile transportation equipment sector, orders were down 12.6 percent on sliding aircraft orders.

Not including transportation, factory orders were down 0.8 percent, about the same as in November.

December orders were 6.6 percent lower than a year ago.

The weakness in orders underscores the persistent problems in US manufacturing as a global slowdown and a strong dollar weigh on exports and the US economy continues to grow at a slow pace.

The Institute for Supply Management reported Monday that US manufacturing activity contracted for the fourth straight month in January, according to its purchasing managers index.
AFP

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