December 22, 2017 / 3:14 PM / a month ago

U.S. core capital goods orders dip, shipments increase

WASHINGTON, Dec 22 (Reuters) - New orders for key U.S.-made capital goods fell in November after four straight months of increases, but further gains in shipments suggested that business spending on equipment will probably remain robust in the fourth quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Friday that orders for non-defence capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, slipped 0.1 percent last month. Data for October was revised to show these so-called core capital goods orders jumping 0.8 percent instead of the previously reported 0.3 percent gain.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast orders of these so-called core capital goods increasing 0.5 percent last month. Core capital goods orders gained 5.1 percent on a year-on-year basis.

November’s dip is likely to be temporary after Republicans in the U.S. Congress passed a tax cut package worth $1.5 trillion, the largest overhaul of the tax code in 30 years.

The package, which slashes the corporate income tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, is a major legislative victory for President Donald Trump. The Trump administration argues that the tax cut will boost business spending though many economists believe companies will use much of the windfall on share buy-backs and debt reduction.

Last month, shipments of core capital goods rose 0.3 percent after an upwardly revised 1.3 percent surge in October. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in the government’s gross domestic product measurement.

They were previously reported to have jumped 1.1 percent in October. The increase in core capital goods shipments over the last two months suggested a strong pace of increase in business spending on equipment in the fourth quarter.

Business investment in equipment rose at its fastest pace in three years in the third quarter, helping to power the economy to a 3.2 percent annualised growth pace during that period.

Strong business spending on equipment is helping to boost manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy. Last month, orders for machinery tumbled 1.1 percent.

Orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components increased 0.7 percent. There were also increases in orders for primary metals. Orders for computers and electronic products fell as did those for fabricated metal products.

Overall orders for durable goods, items ranging from toasters to aircraft meant to last three years or more, rebounded 1.3 percent last month as demand for transportation equipment surged 4.2 percent. Durable goods orders fell 0.4 percent in October.

Boeing BA.N reported on its website that it received 159 aircraft orders in November compared to only 64 in October.

Orders for motor vehicles and parts increased 1.4 percent last month after shooting up 1.6 percent in October.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci; Lucia.Mutikani@thomsonreuters.com; 1 202 898 8315; Reuters Messaging: lucia.mutikani.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net

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