Orders placed with U.S. factories for business equipment rose in October by more than forecast, highlighting solid momentum for capital investment at the start of the fourth quarter.
The value of core capital goods orders, a proxy for business investment in equipment that excludes aircraft and military hardware, rose 0.6% after a upwardly revised 1.3% increase a month earlier, Commerce Department figures showed Wednesday.
Bookings for all durable goods—or items meant to last at least three years—decreased 0.5% from the prior month, reflecting a drop in commercial aircraft.
The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 0.5% increase in core capital goods orders and a 0.2% advance in total durables bookings.
The pickup extends a trend of healthy growth in equipment expenditures that began in May of last year, with orders increasing in all but one month. Such demand against a backdrop of lean inventories is seen fueling factory output well into 2022.
Still, production efforts are being stymied by shipping bottlenecks as well as shortages of both labor and materials that show few signs of being alleviated. A report Tuesday showed growth in U.S. business activity softened this month as both service providers and manufacturers remained constrained by higher inflation, supply shortages and hiring difficulties.
A separate report Wednesday showed applications for U.S. state unemployment benefits fell last week to a level not seen since 1969.
Core capital goods shipments, a figure that is used to help calculate equipment investment in the government’s gross domestic product report, rose 0.3% after jumping an upwardly 1.3% in the prior month.
Total durables orders were held down by a 14.5% drop in bookings for commercial aircraft. Boeing Co. earlier reported 10 orders in October, down from 27 a month earlier. The government’s data aren’t always directly comparable on a month-to-month basis.
Orders for motor vehicles rose 4.8%. Durable goods orders excluding transportation equipment increased 0.5%.
Outside of the volatile aircraft category, orders increased for primary and fabricated metals, communications equipment and electronics.
Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods rose 0.2%, while inventories increased 0.6%. The backlog underscores the ongoing production constraints and long lead times faced by manufacturers.