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April Durables Orders Up 0.8%, Reflecting Defense Spending

WASHINGTON (MNI) - The latest U.S. durables orders data suggest military spending held up the total, masking some underlying weakness.

April durable goods orders surprised at +0.8% in a third monthly gain. The expectation was for a decline.

Ex transport orders posted +0.1%, also a third gain, and ex defense -0.8%.

Headline orders masks the expected weakness, however. To some extent this is the usual seesaw after a strong prior month (March durables orders were +3.6% after revision) or possibly a reversion to the pattern where the first month of each quarter is weak.

In April, metals orders posted -0.4%, machinery -2.9%, computers -1.1%, and motor vehicles -1%. Weakness is seen in nondefense capital goods ex aircraft orders at -1.0%. Most of these categories had their worst results since the harsh winter.

Boeing Corp. reported 70 new orders for commercial aircraft after a huge 163 in March, so it was no surprise that nondefense aircraft orders were down 4.1%.

Defense appeared to bolster orders but not shipments.

Non-defense capital goods shipments were down 0.6%, and -0.4% ex aircraft, showing that Q2 capital spending is off to a weak start with slow growth from the Q1 average.

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