Thursday, May 24, 2007

Durable Goods Orders Surprise On the Upside

From CBS Marketwatch:

New orders for U.S.-made durable goods increased 0.6% in April, boosted by strong demand for metals, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Orders in March rose a revised 5%, a six-month high, compared with a 4.3% estimate previously.

Demand in April was held back by a 10.7% drop in orders for civilian airplanes, where new orders had doubled in the previous two months. Excluding the extremely volatile transportation category, orders were up 1.5% in April, identical to the increase in March.

Orders for core capital equipment goods - the best monthly gauge of business investment - rose 1.2% after a 4.4% gain in March.

Here's a link to the actual report.

There are some really interesting points in the report that should be highlighted.

First, the Census Bureau has a spreadsheet download that has unadjusted totals for 2006 and 2007. This means the Bureau has a "year to date" running total on all the different categories.

Year to date, total new orders including transportation are up .4%, but excluding transportation are down .4%.

Here's where things start to get really interesting. Let's use total new orders of $844,523 million as the denominator in the following calculations.

Primary metals are up 6.8% than the same time last year and they make up 9.67% of all new orders.

Electronic equipment and appliances are up 8.6% from the same time last year and they make 5.26% of total new orders.

Fabricated metal parts are up 1% from their total at this time last year and they comprise 12.40% of total new orders.

Transportation is up 2.2%, but that's because non-defense aircraft and parts are up 26.9%. Auto new orders are down 6.1%.

Computer and electronics parts are down 3% compared to the same totals last year and they make up 11.97% of all new orders.

So what does all of this mean? It's largely a commodities driven durable goods market. My guess is foreign demand is responsible for more than a small share of all these orders -- especially orders from China/India and any other country that is manufacturing goods.