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December 23, 2021 11:45 AM, EST

Durable Goods Orders Increase More Than Forecast

lawnmower factory workerA worker welds a lawnmower frame together on the assembly line at a facility in Coatesville, Ind. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

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Orders placed with U.S. factories for durable goods rose in November by the most in six months, exceeding forecasts and pointing to steady demand that will help drive production growth in early 2022.

Bookings for all durable goods — or items meant to last at least three years — increased 2.5% from the prior month, partly reflecting a sharp rise in commercial aircraft orders.

The value of core capital goods orders, a proxy for business investment in equipment that excludes aircraft and military hardware, fell 0.1% after an upwardly revised 0.9% increase in October, Commerce Department figures showed Dec. 23.

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The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 0.7% increase in core capital goods orders and a 1.8% rise in total durables bookings.

Despite the softer results in business equipment orders, the strength in prior months illustrates a robust pattern of private investment aimed at bolstering productivity and production capacity. Amid lean inventories, near-record job vacancies and a challenging supply network, companies are looking to enhance efficiency.

Meantime, inflation-adjusted household spending stagnated in November as the fastest price gains in nearly four decades eroded purchasing power. Purchases of goods and services, after adjusting for higher prices, were little changed after a 0.7% gain in October, separate Commerce Department figures showed Dec. 23.

The durables data showed bookings for commercial aircraft increased 34.1%. Boeing Co. reported 109 orders in November, up from 10 a month earlier. The government data on aircraft orders don’t always align exactly with the corporate figures.

Orders for motor vehicles rose 1%. Durable goods orders excluding transportation equipment increased 0.8%.

Outside of the more volatile transportation categories, the report was mixed. Bookings for metals and communications equipment increased, while those for machinery, electrical equipment and computers eased.

Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods, a measure of backlogs, rose 0.7%. Inventories, meantime, increased 0.6%.

Core capital goods shipments, a figure that will be used to calculate investment in the government’s fourth-quarter gross domestic product report, rose 0.3% in November.

Orders for defense capital goods, a volatile component, jumped 16%, while total durable goods bookings minus military equipment rose 2%.

— With assistance from Kristy Scheuble.

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