Updated September 4 at 4:04pm

U.S. factory orders rise on machinery, computers

By Patricia Daddona
Contributing Writer
Orders placed with U.S. factories rose in May, reflecting broad-based gains that signal manufacturing is stabilizing.

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Focus: MANUFACTURING

U.S. factory orders rise on machinery, computers

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Orders placed with U.S. factories rose in May, reflecting broad-based gains that signal manufacturing is stabilizing.

The 2.1 percent gain in bookings followed a revised 1.3 percent advance the prior month, the Commerce Department reported last week in Washington. The median forecast of 61 economists in a Bloomberg survey called for a 2 percent increase. Demand for capital equipment increased more than the government previously estimated.

Sales of motor vehicles, gains in residential construction, and a boom in domestic energy production are helping make up for weakness in U.S. export markets. A pickup in business investment in new equipment and improving consumer demand would help bolster manufacturing and the expansion in the second half of 2013.

“If you look at manufacturing in general it’s been in one of the biggest expansionary tracks we’ve seen,” Drew Matus, deputy U.S. chief economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Conn., said before the report. “The U.S. seems like it’s doing much better than the rest of the world.”

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from a 1 percent drop to a 4.9 percent gain after a previously reported 1 percent advance in April.

Factory orders excluding the volatile transportation component climbed 0.6 percent after a 0.2 percent increase the prior month, the Commerce report showed.

Bookings for commercial aircraft jumped 50.8 percent after climbing 18.4 percent in April. Chicago-based Boeing Co. received 232 aircraft orders in May after 51 in April.

Bookings for durable goods, which make up more than half of total factory demand, rose 3.7 percent. Last week’s reading was little changed from the 3.6 percent gain the Commerce Department initially estimated on June 25.

Orders for nondurable goods including petroleum climbed 0.7 percent. The gain in nondurables reflected gains in fuel and chemicals, last week’s report showed. Because the figures aren’t adjusted for inflation, they’re often influenced by changes in prices rather than shifts in demand.

Bookings for capital goods, excluding aircraft and military equipment, an indicator of future business investment, increased 1.5 percent in May, a third consecutive advance. The reading was revised up from the government’s first estimate late last month which showed a 1.1 percent gain.

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