Thursday, April 29, 1999

Manufacturing sector sees 2% rise for March

'Hard winter' could be over

The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods jumped a larger-than-expected 2 percent in March, raising hopes that better days might be ahead for the beleaguered U.S. manufacturing sector.

        The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that the March increase in orders for durable goods followed a 3.9 percent decline in February, which was revised upward to show more strength than the initial estimate of a 4.9 percent plunge.

        The global currency crisis has severely cut into U.S. exports and opened up U.S. manufacturers in such sectors as steel to increased competition from cheaper priced foreign goods. Manufacturers have been forced to cut more than 300,000 jobs in the past year as the U.S. trade deficit hit record levels.

        The March rise in orders represented the fourth gain in factory demand in the past five months.

        “The manufacturing sector may be turning the corner,” said Joel L. Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisers in Holland, Pa. “It is too soon to declare an end to manufacturing's long hard winter, but spring appears to be bringing a new bloom to this sector.”

        Gordon Richards, chief economist of the National Association of Manufacturers, said that while the rebound in March was skewed by strength in the volatile transportation sector, there were encouraging signs of strength in other sectors, including consumer electronics.

        The overall 2 percent in durable goods orders was led by a 3.6 percent jump in demand for autos, airplanes and other transportation goods. Without this increase, the overall advance would be been a smaller 1.5 percent.


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- Manufacturing sector sees 2% rise for March