Factory Orders Up Less Than Expected; ISM Dips

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New orders at U.S. factories rose by a smaller-than-expected 0.2 percent in February, government data showed on Thursday, as strong demand for aircraft barely managed to offset weakness elsewhere.

The Commerce Department (search) also revised the previous month's orders to show no change from a previously reported 0.2 percent climb in January.

Wall Street had forecast orders to grow 0.5 percent despite modest readouts from purchasing manager surveys amid soaring oil prices, which have dented household budgets and expectations for future income.

The Institute for Supply Management's (search) manufacturing index dipped slightly to 55.3 in February from 56.4 a month earlier.

The Commerce Department said demand for durable goods — big ticket items meant to last three years or more — rose 0.5 percent compared with a revised 1.2 percent fall in January.

Nondefense capital goods (search) orders excluding aircraft, seen as a measure of business spending strength, fell 1.7 percent after advancing 4.4 percent in January.

New orders for nondurable goods, which make up a bit less than half of all factory orders, were down 0.2 percent after a 1.4 percent gain the previous month.

New orders for civilian aircraft jumped 32.2 percent, reversing a 32.2 percent decline in January. When transportation orders are stripped out, factory orders actually fell 0.1 percent.

Factory inventories were up 0.5 percent in February, the Commerce Department said. The inventories-to-shipments ratio, an indication of how long it would take to empty stocks at the current pace of shipment, rose to 1.25 months from 1.23 months in January.