This column was originally published on RealMoney on Mar. 27, 2008 at 11:30 a.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers. It is a follow-up to "26 Stock Tips From the U.S. Government." For more information about subscribing to RealMoney, please click here.

According to the Census Bureau, new orders for manufactured durable goods in February decreased $3.6 billion, or 1.7%, to $210.6 billion, the second consecutive monthly decrease following a 4.7% January decrease.

RealMoney

contributor Tony Crescenzi says that this report is

consistent with a recession

, and the market seems to agree.

However, the news release could have said

New orders for manufactured durable goods in February increased $8.4 billion, or 4.3%, to $208.1 billion, compared to the year-ago period. This marks the third consecutive monthly increase, following year-over-year gains of 4.2% in both December and January.

Would the market have reacted more kindly to that rephrased release? It isn't an academic question, because either paragraph is technically correct.

The Census Bureau, as is its custom, reported the one-month change after making seasonal adjustments. My alternate version simply takes the one-year change in the data before the adjustments are made.

Looking at the unadjusted data on a year-over-year basis, I did all my fretting about a slowing economy

last

year. Order growth was slowing to negative, and inventories were rising at a faster rate than either.

Click here for larger image.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Now, with order growth outpacing inventory build, I think the data can provide a similar early read on the industries poised for a rebound.

Click here for larger image.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

For example, consider primary metals. New orders rose 16.5%, and inventories are declining. Potential beneficiaries of this surge include

Click here for larger image.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Also showing significant improvement was the computers and electronic products category, which in addition to computers includes storage devices, peripherals, telecom equipment and consumer electronics. Recall that some of these industries were also apparent beneficiaries of stronger pricing power, which makes sense if orders are stronger than inventories.

The potential winners here include

Click here for larger image.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Finally, consider the motor vehicles and parts industry. With orders down 4.5%, I'm not ready to argue that the sector is ready for a rebound. However, the fundamentals do seem to be improving. Inventories have been declining for the last eight months, which should ultimately help manufacturers return to profitability.

Given the debt loads and shaky financials for some of these guys, the high yield might be an attractive contrarian play amidst a credit crunch.

Ford

(F) - Get Report

and

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

would fall into that category. Other, less severely levered options include

So there you have it. Twenty-six more stock tips from the U.S. government. As with any stock tip, this is only a starting place for further research, but it is a starting place that I have frequently found to be a useful one.

This column was originally published on

RealMoney

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At the time of publication, Trent had no positions in the stocks mentioned, although positions may change at any time.

William A. Trent, CFA, is a freelance equity analyst based in the New York metro area. He has been an equity analyst since 1996 and is co-author of

Understanding and Evaluating Prospectuses, Offering Documents, and Proxy Statements

. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Trent appreciates your feedback;

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