New orders for U.S.-made goods rose for an eighth straight month in December as the manufacturing sector took solid momentum into the new year.
The Commerce Department reported Thursday that orders for manufactured goods rose 1.1% in December after a 1.3% gain in the prior month. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders gaining 0.7% in December.
“Manufacturing, which accounts for 11.9% of the U.S. economy, has been driven by strong demand for goods such as electronics and furniture as 23.7% of the labor force works from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Reuters said.
The government said last week that new orders for long-lasting durable goods increased 0.2% to a seasonally adjusted $245.3 billion in December, the smallest gain since last August.
“The distribution of vaccines to fight the coronavirus is picking up, which is expected to lift spending on services by summer, and slow the manufacturing momentum,” according to Reuters.
But Thursday’s report showed orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans on equipment, increased 0.7% in December, revised upward from the 0.6% reported last month.
“The bigger story is the continued strong gains in core orders, which underlines that the recovery in business equipment investment — which looks set to rise above its pre-pandemic level in the fourth quarter — still has plenty of momentum,” Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a research note.
IHS Markit said last week that its index of U.S. manufacturing activity rose in early January to its highest level in more than a decade but the Institute for Supply Management reported that its index of national factory activity slipped in January.
The moderation in activity reported by the ISM “reflected a flare-up in COVID-19 infections, causing labor shortages in factories and their suppliers,” Reuters said.
Factory goods orders in December were boosted by strong demand for machinery, electrical equipment, appliances, and components, as well as primary metals and fabricated metal products.
Shipments of factory goods rose 1.7% while unfilled orders fell 0.3%.