June 26, 2017 10:30 AM, EDT
Slowdown in Business-Equipment Orders May Weigh on Growth
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

An unexpected decline in U.S. orders for business equipment in May indicates cooling capital-goods investment may weigh on second-quarter economic growth, Commerce Department data showed June 26.

Highlights of durable goods

• Orders for nonmilitary capital goods excluding aircraft fell 0.2% (estimated 0.4% gain) after 0.2% increase in prior month.

• Shipments of those goods, which are used to calculate gross domestic product, fell 0.2% after 0.1% gain.

• Bookings for all durable goods fell 1.1% (estimated 0.6% drop) after 0.9% decline; excluding transportation-equipment demand, which is volatile, orders rose 0.1% (estimated 0.4% gain).

Key takeaways

The broad slowdown in equipment orders and shipments raises the risk that business investment will provide less of a boost than anticipated to the economic rebound this quarter, leaving the heavy lifting to household spending.

The outlook for capital-goods production is clouded by cooling automobile sales, while overseas markets — though improving — are yet to show the kind of demand acceleration that would spur exports of U.S.-made goods.

Other details

• Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft dropped most since December; durable-goods orders fell most since November.

• Orders for motor vehicles and parts rose 1.2%; compares with industry data showing sales of cars and light trucks slowed in May for the fourth time in the past five months.

• Orders for fabricated metal products fell 0.2% after a 1% decline; machinery orders rose 0.6%.

• Computer and electronic-products orders decreased 0.2%.

• Bookings for civilian aircraft and parts dropped 11.7%; defense capital-goods orders fell 8.2%.

• Durable-goods inventories rose 0.2%; unfilled orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft advanced 0.2%.