Thursday, May 29, 2003

Durables orders down 2.4% in April

By Jeannine Aversa
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - America's manufacturers saw demand for their products fall in April by the largest amount in seven months, a fresh blow to an industry that is a big drag on the plodding economy.

Orders to U.S. factories for durable goods - manufactured products such as cars and appliances expected to last at least three years - dropped by 2.4 percent in April from the month before, when they rose 1.4 percent.

The Commerce Department's report Wednesday underscored the troubles facing battered manufacturers, which have suffered through 33 consecutive months of jobs losses and are operating plants well below capacity.

"There will be no quick turnaround in the goods-producing part of the economy," said economist Thomas Duesterberg, president of the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, a research group.

April's decline in orders was deeper than the 1 percent decrease economists were expecting and was the largest drop since September.

Also Wednesday, the department announced that data on shipments of semiconductors will again be included in the monthly durable-goods report under an agreement with the semiconductor industry.

Orders for:

• Transportation equipment fell 5.4 percent in April, following a 2.1 percent rise.

• Automobiles in April fell 3 percent, on top of a 1.6 percent decline in March.

• Electrical equipment and appliances declined by 3.6 percent.

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