CHICAGO U.S. metal producers shipments rose 10.5 percent in January to $28.38 billion, more than making up for a 4.3-percent decline in December, while new orders jumped 12.8 percent to $28.93 billion after falling 4.7 percent in the same comparison.
Metal fabricators shipments were valued at $26.12 billion in January; the 6-percent gain reversing a 5.8-percent drop in December. New orders rose 10.2 percent to $28.78 billion, the latest Census Bureau data show.
Both metal producers and fabricators kept their inventories in a tight range in January, rising 0.5 and 1.4 percent, respectively, from December.
For all industries, new durable goods orders fell 14.6 percent in January to $204.37 billion, not seasonally adjusted. Transportation equipment, which fell 40 percent, drove the decrease, Census said. Excluding transportation, new orders for durable goods inched up 0.3 percent.
"As widely expected, aircraft and defense orders pulled down the total. A decline in aircraft was a safe bet as this volatile category surged in December," according to Paul Edelstein, director of financial economics at consultancy IHS Global Insight Inc.
"The presumed expiration of bonus depreciation at the start of the year may have dampened shipments in January as some shipments were pulled forward into the fourth quarter, but the impact was probably minor," he said. "In all, demand for durable goods held up nicely in January once aircraft and defense are taken into account. Our forecast for first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth holds at around 2 percent."
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department revised its fourth-quarter GDP estimate from a 0.1-percent decline to a 0.1-percent gain.
Looking ahead, IHS estimates the drag from the sequestration at 0.3 percent in the first quarter, but if the sequestration continues through June "it could take 1.8 percentage points off second-quarter growth."