Orders placed with US factories for durable goods rose more than expected in May, suggesting business investment so far remains firm even in the face of rising interest rates and mounting concerns about the economy.
Bookings for durable goods—items meant to last at least three years—increased 0.7% in May after a revised 0.4% advance a month earlier, Commerce Department figures showed Monday. The figures aren’t adjusted for inflation.
The value of core capital goods orders, a proxy for investment in equipment that excludes aircraft and military hardware, rose 0.5% after a 0.3% gain a month earlier.
The median estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 0.1% increase in orders for all durable goods and a 0.2% gain in the core figure.
The broad pickup in orders suggests capital investment was firm in May even as more recent manufacturing data have started to show signs of softening. Several regional Fed measures of economic activity deteriorated or outright contracted in June, including in New York state and the Philadelphia area.
S&P Global’s manufacturing output index also sunk into contraction territory, stymied by high prices, weaker demand and materials shortages. So did new orders.
The economic outlook has dimmed, with some businesses growing cautious in the wake of aggressive policy action by the Federal Reserve and heightened recession odds. Meantime, Americans are pulling back on merchandise spending.
Core capital goods shipments, a figure that is used to help calculate equipment investment in the government’s gross domestic product report, increased 0.8% for a second month. The first estimate of second-quarter GDP will be released in late July.
There are signs consumer demand for durable goods is waning, however. A survey out last week from the University of Michigan showed a gauge of buying conditions for household durable goods deteriorated to a fresh record low.
May orders increased for primary metals, machinery, communications equipment and motor vehicles. Bookings eased for electrical equipment and appliances. It’s unclear to what extent higher inflation played a role in the overall increase during the month.
Bookings for commercial aircraft slipped 1.1%. Boeing Co. reported 23 orders in May, down from 46 a month earlier. While often helpful to compare the two, aircraft orders are volatile and the government data don’t always correlate with the company’s figures.
Durable goods orders excluding transportation equipment also rose 0.7% last month.
The report also showed unfilled orders for all durable goods rose 0.3%, while inventories increased 0.6%.