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    Durable orders sink 2.4% in April
    Business investment still struggling

    By Rex Nutting, CBS.MarketWatch.com
    Last Update: 8:35 AM ET May 28, 2003

    WASHINGTON (CBS.MW) - Demand for new durable goods fell 2.4 percent in April, the fourth decrease in the past six months, the Commerce Department estimated Wednesday.

    After falling a revised 1.4 percent in March, orders for goods meant to last at least three years were expected to drop about 0.9 percent, according to a poll of economists by CBS.MarketWatch.com. See Economic Calendar.

    Orders for durable goods are up 0.6 percent in the past 12 months, three years after the slump in U.S. industry took root. Read the full release.

    Orders for core capital goods fell 3 percent in April after gaining 4.7 percent in March, a sign that full recovery in business investment remains elusive. These core orders, which exclude defense goods and civilian aircraft, are up 4.7 percent in the past year.

    Shipments of durable goods dropped 0.7 percent in April, reversing the 0.5 percent gain in March. Shipments of core capital goods rose 1.7 percent after rising 1.8 percent in March.

    Unfilled orders fell 0.3 percent in April, while manufacturers' inventories of durable goods dipped 0.1 percent, falling for the 26th time in the past 27 months.

    Total orders were boosted by a 48.6 percent jump in civilian aircraft orders. Orders for all transportation equipment fell 5.4 percent, due to the 3 percent drop in orders for motor vehicles and parts and the 26.4 percent plunge in orders for military airplanes.

    Excluding transportation, durable orders fell 1.2 percent. Excluding defense, durable orders fell 1.5 percent.

    Orders and shipments were weak in most sectors.

    Shipments of transportation goods dropped 2.8 percent.

    Orders for computers and electronics were flat, while shipments rose 3.6 percent.

    The government announced that it would begin reporting on shipments of semiconductors beginning with the July data. A dispute with the industry had kept all semiconductor data out of the monthly reports. Data on new orders and inventories will still not be reported.

    Orders for machinery fell 3.7 percent while shipments dropped 0.1 percent.

    Orders for electrical equipment fell 3.6 percent while shipments fell 0.4 percent.

    Orders for fabricated metals dropped 1.3 percent while shipments fell 1.1 percent.

    Orders for primary metals rose 1.8 percent while shipments dropped 2.2 percent.

    Rex Nutting is Washington bureau chief of CBS.MarketWatch.com.

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