Core capital goods orders fell for the second time in three months in November, indicating that the slowdown in business investment has continued into the fourth quarter.
The Commerce Department reported Friday that orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, known as core capital goods, fell 0.6%, while shipments of core goods fell 0.1%.
Overall durable goods orders rose 0.8% last month, but that followed a sharp fall of 4.3% in October when orders for commercial and military aircraft plunged. Transportation orders, mainly aircraft, led the gain in November but stripping out planes and cars, orders fell 0.3%.
“The underlying trend in core orders has cooled recently and suggests that business equipment investment will not be a boost for fourth-quarter gross domestic product,” MarketWatch said.
The Associated Press noted U.S. business investment in capital goods such as industrial machinery, computers, and cars “has stumbled in the second half of the year after rising at a healthy clip in the first six months of 2018. That slowdown will weigh on growth in the final three months of the year.”
The economy expanded at a healthy 3.4% annual rate in the third quarter, according to a separate report from the Commerce Department Friday. But most economists forecast a mild slowdown in the fourth quarter to a roughly 2.5% to 3% pace.
The Trump administration has said its corporate tax cuts would lead to a sustained burst of business spending on long-lasting equipment but according to the AP, “the drop in business investment since the summer suggests otherwise.”
“Growth in business equipment investment appears to have slowed from 3.4% annualized in the third quarter to little more than 2% in the fourth. It is hard to see business investment growth staging a significant rebound any time soon,” said Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.
The recent sharp drop in oil prices could also cause drilling companies to cut back on their purchases of steel pipe, machinery and other drilling equipment. In November, orders for fabricated metal products rose 0.5%.