Orders for durable goods rose for a fifth consecutive month in April, amid strong demand for vehicles, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
The 1.1% gain in April followed a revised 0.2% gain in March, as bookings for autos posted their biggest increase since August 1998. Shipments of durable goods jumped 3.5% while inventories fell 0.3%.
Stronger sales at auto dealers have left the industry with depleted inventories, explaining the ramp-up in production. Orders for automakers rose 12% in April while shipments climbed 12.4%. Still, new orders for aircraft declined 37.1%. Although
said it received 33 aircraft orders last month, orders from private firms don't always show up immediately.
Excluding transportation, orders were up 2.9%, compared with analysts' expectations for a 1% gain. Analysts also expected overall orders to rise just 0.5% in April.
In a sign that business investment is starting to improve, orders for nondefense capital goods climbed 1.9%, with computer and electronics orders up 2.5% and communications equipment orders up 12%.
But orders for defense equipment slid 33.3% after more than doubling over the past two months.
Separately, first-time jobless claims fell by 9,000 to 416,000 in the latest week, according to the Labor Department. Analysts were looking for a level of 410,000.
The four-week moving average, which levels out weekly fluctuations, fell 2,750 to 420,000 from a revised average of 422,750 in the prior week.