U.S. Durable Goods Orders Jump in May on Planes, Transportation

Orders for U.S. durable goods rose in May at the fastest pace since January, bolstered by a sizable gain in orders for commercial planes.

Bookings for durable goods -- or items meant to last at least three years -- increased 2.3% from the prior month, after a revised 0.8% decrease in April, Commerce Department figures showed Thursday. Orders excluding transportation equipment rose 0.3%.

The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 2.8% increase in total durables orders.

U.S. Durable Goods Orders Jump in May on Planes, Transportation

Underneath the strong headline figure, a measure of business investment eased, indicating a pause in the broader rebound in recent months. Core capital goods orders, a category that excludes aircraft and military hardware and is seen as a barometer of business investment, declined 0.1% after an upwardly revised 2.7% gain in the prior month. The median projection was for a 0.6% increase.

A recent pickup in consumer demand -- paired with waning uncertainty about the economy’s outlook -- has underpinned business investment in recent months. The May pullback in non-defense orders excluding aircraft follows a stronger than originally reported April gain. Further investment should support additional factory bookings and production in the months ahead.

A 7.6% gain in transportation equipment orders bolstered the rise in durable bookings. New orders of motor vehicles and parts were up 2.1%, while bookings of commercial aircraft and parts were up 27.4%. U.S. plane-maker Boeing Co. earlier reported 73 orders in May, almost triple the prior month’s figure. The government’s data aren’t always directly comparable on a month-to-month basis.

The report also showed that categories including fabricated metals, machinery, and computers and electronics declined. Primary metals and electrical equipment and appliances saw gains.

Shipments Rise

Core capital goods shipments, a figure used to calculate investment in U.S. gross domestic product, rose 0.9%. That’s the third-straight month of increases.

Separate government reports Thursday showed the economy grew at an annualized pace of 6.4% in the first three months of the year and applications for regular state unemployment insurance remained elevated.

The durable goods data follow a host of solid manufacturing data seen in recent weeks. The Institute for Supply Management’s factory gauge picked up in May, hovering near the highest level in decades, and earlier this week, IHS Markit said its index of purchasing managers at manufacturers rose to a record high in June.

Unfilled orders and inventories for manufactured durable goods both rose for a fourth month.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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