CHICAGO Primary and fabricated metals shipments and new orders all improved strongly in March compared with the previous month, while inventories were mixed.
Primary metals shipments were valued at $29.9 billion, not seasonally adjusted, up 7.2 percent from February, while fabricated metal companies shipped nearly $28.3 billion worth of product last month, a 9.6-percent increase, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Primary metals producers new orders of more than $29.9 billion improved 2.6 percent, while those for fabricators jumped 9.4 percent to slightly more than $31 billion.
Inventories registered mixed results, falling 3 percent for producers but inching up 0.2 percent for fabricators.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, new orders for all durable goods fell 5.7 percent last month. Civilian aircraft and defense orders accounted for 85 percent of the decline, with the balance due to machinery and metals, according to Paul Edelstein, director of financial economics at Lexington, Mass.-based consultancy IHS Global Insight Inc. The decline in new durable goods orders "was sharper than expected, but still largely confined to the volatile civilian aircraft and defense categories."
The federal budget sequestration wasnt responsible for the decline in defense orders, as it was too recent to be reflected in the data, he said. However, its effects should appear slowly in the numbers, mostly impacting the medium-term trend and not month-to-month gyrations.
"Motor vehicle orders took a pause after a strong month in February. The numbers largely confirm what we already know: that the economy hit a soft patch in March that will likely persist for a couple of quarters," Edelstein said.