Manufactured goods orders drop in February after nine months of increases

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Orders for U.S. manufactured goods experienced a drop in February following nine months of growth, according to a Wednesday report from the Department of Commerce. 

Last month, orders for items from U.S. factories dropped by about 1.1 percent, a decline economists have largely attributed to the disruptions in economic activity during the severe winter storm in Texas, as well as other states in the South and Midwest. 

According to The Associated Press, orders had been on the rise for nine months, with a 3.5 percent increase in January. 

In Wednesday’s report, the Commerce Department found that business investment dropped 0.8 percent in February following increases of 0.6 percent in January and 1.5 percent in December. 

The report noted a 1.6 percent decrease in demand for commercial aircraft, part of a larger trend of losses in the airline industry due to the drop in air travel during pandemic lockdown orders across the globe. 

Meanwhile, orders for motor vehicles and parts dropped 8.7 percent in February after falling by just 0.9 percent in January. This comes amid a global shortage of semiconductors, which serve as a critical component in cars and trucks, the AP reported. 

“The biggest headwinds for manufacturing as we emerge from this pandemic are mostly about manufacturers getting the stuff they need,” Tim Quinlan, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, N.C., told Reuters Wednesday.

The winter storm that raged across Texas and the Southern U.S. also prompted several factories, including car manufacturers, to close plants amid freezing temperatures and poor weather conditions. 

Companies like General Motors, Stellantis, Ford and Nissan were all forced to halt production or cancel shifts at plants throughout the U.S. during the storm, impacting thousands of workers. 

Warmer temperatures into the spring months, as well as the increased distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package, are expected to influence a rebound in orders for manufactured goods. 

Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, told the AP, “With the weather returning to seasonal norms and the next fiscal stimulus payments already being distributed, orders likely will rebound in March.” 

“With corporate borrowing costs still close to historic lows … we expect investment to continue expanding at a robust pace over the coming months,” he added.

Tags Auto manufacturing coronavirus pandemic coronavirus relief factories Factory Joe Biden Reuters The Associated Press Winter storm

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