(BN) Orders to U.S. Factories Rise the Most in Four Months as Recovery Quickens

Demand for U.S. Factory Goods Rises by Most in Four Months

Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) — Orders to American factories rose in November by the most in four months, showing gains in manufacturing will help the economy grow.

Bookings for factory goods rose 1.8 percent after a revised 0.2 percent drop the prior month, data from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. Demand for aircraft, autos and metals compensated for a drop in computers and electronics.

Improving consumer spending combined with lean inventories indicate production will continue to increase, bolstering economic growth in early 2012. Slowing demand for capital goods like computers is a sign business investment will cool this year, reflecting concern over a slowdown in global growth and a less advantageous government tax credit.

“Manufacturing is holding up fairly well,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “Business investment has been very strong during this recovery, so some softening isn’t surprising.”

Economists forecast factory orders would rise 2 percent, according to the median of 57 projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from gains of 0.9 percent to 3 percent. October was previously reported as a 0.4 percent decrease.

Stocks held earlier losses after the figures, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declining 0.5 percent to 1,271.2 at 10:26 a.m. in New York. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note climbed to 1.96 percent from 1.95 percent late yesterday.

Durable Goods

Orders for goods meant to least at least three years increased 3.7 percent, in line with the 3.8 percent increase estimated by the government on Dec. 23.

Demand for capital goods excluding aircraft and military equipment, a measure of future business investment, fell 1.2 percent, the same as previously estimated. The decrease followed a 0.9 percent decline in October.

Shipments of such equipment, which are used in calculating gross domestic product, dropped 0.8 percent, marking the third consecutive decrease.

Bookings for commercial aircraft, which is often volatile, jumped 74 percent after dropping 14 percent. Demand for automobiles and parts climbed 0.9 percent and demand for metals rose 4.6 percent. Orders for computers and electronic products fell 4.3 percent.

Boeing Orders

Boeing Co., the largest U.S. aircraft maker, said it received 96 orders in November, up from 7 the prior month and the most since August.

“2012 will be a more challenging economic environment,” David Anderson, chief financial officer at Honeywell International Inc., said on a Dec. 15 conference call. “It’s pretty clear that we’ll experience European recession. We expect emerging regions, including China, India, and the Middle East, to continue to grow low double-digits in 2012.”

Bookings for non-durable goods, including petroleum and chemicals, rose 0.3 percent, today’s report showed.

Inventories climbed 0.5 percent in November, indicating factories were already ramping up production to restock warehouses. Manufacturers had enough goods on hand to last 1.34 months at the current sales pace, up from 1.33 in October.

Auto Sales

A reviving auto industry is boosting the U.S. economy. Light-vehicle sales ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 13.6 million in November, the fastest since August 2009, according to Autodata Corp.

General Motors Co., the largest U.S. carmaker, posted November sales growth of 7 percent versus a year earlier, partly due to Americans replacing older vehicles.

“Given recent sales trends and consumer confidence numbers, we’re feeling pretty good about where the industry is going,” Don Johnson, vice president at GM for U.S. sales, said on a conference call last month.

Manufacturing in the U.S. grew in December at the fastest pace in six months, bolstered by gains in production and orders, the Institute for Supply Management’s factory index showed yesterday. The Tempe, Arizona-based ISM’s measure climbed to 53.9 last month from 52.7 in November. A reading higher than 50 signals growth.

Manufacturing figures from around the world yesterday showed the industry is surviving the strains from Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. India’s manufacturing grew at the fastest pace in six months and a Chinese factory gauge rose by more than economists had forecast.

Still, the Federal Reserve’s gauge of factory output on Dec. 15 declined in November for the first time in seven months, reflecting a slowdown in auto production that may have been due to parts shortages caused by flooding in Thailand.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Willis in Washington at bwillis

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz

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